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Sickle Cell Disease (cont.)

Medications

Medicines that treat sickle cell disease include hydroxyurea and various pain medicines. Some of these medicines require a prescription. Others are available over the counter. Pain medicine may work best when combined with pain management skills, such as distraction; guided imagery; deep breathing; relaxation; and positive, encouraging self-talk.

Pain treatment for sickle cell disease pain varies depending on how bad the pain is and how long the pain lasts. Medicines that treat the pain include over-the-counter pain relievers (such as ibuprofen) and prescription opioids (such as codeine). Opiate pain medicines are used under careful medical supervision.

Surgery

Some sickle cell complications are treated with surgery. Surgery options include:

  • Removal of the spleen (splenectomy), to prevent the trapping of too many red blood cells in the spleen (splenic sequestration).
  • Removal of the gallbladder (cholecystectomy), to prevent problems caused by gallstones.
  • Draining fluid from the penis in cases of severe priapism.
  • Hip replacement, if the tissue in the hip breaks down and dies because it doesn't get enough blood (osteonecrosis).
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