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What is a Sickle Cell Crisis, it’s Symptoms and causes?

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What is a Sickle Cell Crisis, it’s Symptoms and causes?

At some point in your life, you will drop  something into the sink by accident. If this thing is small and of little value, for example, a grape, it may not be an issue. You’ll simply just let the water run and flush it through.

However, if your child slips a big a shoe down the drain, you are going to have some bigger issues as it will get stuck in your pipes.

This is the kind of thing that occurs during a sickle cell crisis, also called a pain episode. Red blood cells are round and have some give to them. Because of their shape, they move easily up and down your entire body.

But when your body is affected by sickle cell disease (SCD), some cells are curved – in a sickle shape and hard. Since they are not flexible–or deformable- they get stuck in small blood vessels.

Stucking as such can occur in many organs such as  your chest, belly and joints. This is the reason there are more than 50% of people living with SSD and who are experiencing acute chest syndrome due to their lungs’ small vessels. This can result in acute hypoxia (low oxygen levels) and long term lung complications. That’s when you develop a sickle cell crisis.

These stuck cells either slow or block blood flow completely. This means some areas of your body don’t get the oxygen they need. That is enough reason for you to get intense pain that can last from a few hours to a few weeks. However, there are steps you can take to lower your chances of a crisis. And supposed one comes on, you may have the knowledge you should have to care for yourself at home.

What are the Symptoms of sickle cell crisis?

The most common sign/symptom is pain that might be dull, throbbing, stabbing, or sharp, and seems to come from nowhere. How serious it is and its duration varies from person to person and in different crises. Some people experience crises here and there, while others experience them monthly.

You might feel the pain in any part of your body and in more than one area, but it is often parts like your:

  • Arms and legs
  • Chest
  • Belly
  • Lower back
  • Hands and feet (more typical in young children)

You may have the following issues as well:

  • Breathing problems (shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (pain) or both)
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Headache or dizziness
  • Weakness or a hard time moving certain parts of your body
  • Painful erections in males
  • Yellowish skin color (jaundice)


Causes of a Sickle Cell Crisis

Typically, you won’t understand the reason you had a crisis, and the causes may be more than one. Possible triggers include:

  • Temperature changes, in cases in which you go from a very warm house into a cold winter day and without having bundled up
  • Being at high altitudes, for example, during mountain climbing
  • Infections
  • Not drinking enough liquid (dehydration)
  • Stress

Please share with us about your personal experience with sickle cell crisis.




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