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Sickle Cell Crisis (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care

If certain conditions develop in a person withsickle cell disease, the personmust contact a physician. If the physicianis not quickly available or cannot see the person right away, the person with sickle cell diseasemay choose to go to a hospital's emergency department. Contact the physicianin the followingcases:

  • Many people with sickle-cell disease have pain with enough frequency that they need to take pain medications at home. If the pain is unrelieved by the medication, or the pain is significantly different fromprevious episodes, contact the health care provider.
  • Ifexperiencing nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea;losing a lot of fluid; and having inabilityto drink and keep it down, the person with sickle cell disease isin danger of becoming dehydrated. This is a serious concern with sickle cell disease. The physicianor the hospital may provideIV fluids to replace the lost fluids.
  • It is important to control infection. If it appears that a person with sickle cell disease isgetting an infection, even ifusing antibiotics to prevent infection,contact the physician immediately.

A sickle cell crisis can often be managed efficiently and quickly in a hospital's emergency department with fluids and pain medicines. A person with sickle cell disease shouldnot delay going to the hospital. Delay can only make the condition worse and might requirehospitalizationfor treatment.

Go to a hospital's emergency department if these conditions develop:

  • Uncontrollable pain even with the use of narcotics
  • Continued loss of fluid leading to dehydration (ifvomiting)
  • Uncontrollable fever
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Severe abdominal pain

Sickle Cell Disease Diagnosis

The health-care professionalwill take the complete medical history of a person with sickle cell disease. Thishistory should includewhetherany infections are present. The health care provider will ask about other problems that are common starters of sickle cell crisis. These problems would be a lack of oxygen in the tissue, bleeding, dehydration, alcohol and drug use, pregnancy, and other concerns.

  • During a physical exam, the physician will check the nervous system, lungs, bones, eyes, and abdomen, in particular.
  • The physician will perform blood and urine tests. If indicated, the physician may have a CT scan of the head taken and perform a spinal tap to check for problems in the spinal fluid and brain.

If the physician suspect's sickle cell disease in an adult, or more commonly a child not previously diagnosed with this disease, attention will first be paid to getting a family history of sickle cell disease. The physician then performs a blood test to diagnose the disease.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/11/2014
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