Sickle cell disease pain can occur daily, and is far more prevalent and severe than previous large studies have indicated. Patients are at home mostly struggling with their pain rather than coming into the hospital or emergency department.
The study, “A Prospective Study of Daily Pain in Adults with Sickle Cell Disease,” is published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Sickle cell disease is a group of hereditary red blood cell disorders. In the United States, sickle cell syndromes are present in 1 in 400 African Americans. The disease is also found in high frequency in individuals from certain areas of the Mediterranean basin, the Middle East, and India.
Authors of the study gave diaries to 232 sickle cell disease patients to record daily pain and indicate whether they used hospital emergency or unscheduled ambulatory care for their pain. Previous estimates about sickle cell pain assumed that if patients didn’t go to the hospital or seek medical care for pain, they didn’t have pain.
Previous sickle cell treatments also were based on the number of visits to hospitals to relieve pain.
Hydroxyurea is the only FDA-approved treatment specifically for the disease. Other drugs can help symptoms and complications of the disease. Bone marrow transplantation can be curative.
“I believe that this study could change the way people view the pain of the disease. It is a chronic pain syndrome,” said Dr. Smith. “And the study results have implications for medical care, and research. We need more drugs to prevent the underlying processes that cause pain in this disease. And we need better treatments to reduce the chronic pain and suffering that these patients go through.”
Source: American College of Physicians, USA