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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Hemoglobin sickle-beta thalassemia

Other Names for this Disease
  • Hb S beta-thalassemia
  • Sickle beta thalassemia
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Your Question

What is the best pain management regimen for a 50-year-old with hemoglobin sickle-beta thalassemia experiencing sickle cell crisis? Lately, the onset has become more frequent, about every three months. Is this normal?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

In hemoglobin sickle-beta thalassemia, what is a sickle cell crisis?

A sickle cell crisis happens when sickled red blood cells block the small blood vessels that carry blood to the bones. This causes pain that can begin suddenly and last several hours to several days. Affected individuals may experience pain in their back, knees, legs, arms, chest or stomach. The pain can be throbbing, sharp, dull or stabbing. How often and how bad the pain gets varies greatly from person to person and from crisis to crisis. Recurrent episodes may cause irreversible organ damage.[1][2]
Last updated: 4/14/2011

What causes sickle cell crisis in hemoglobin sickle-beta thalassemia?

The specific cause of sickle cell crisis is unknown. A crisis usually has more than one cause. However, there are ways to prevent a crisis from happening such as eating a balanced diet, quitting smoking, exercising regularly without over exertion, drinking lots of fluids, avoiding stress, treating infections as soon and they occur, avoiding extreme temperatures, and getting enough sleep.[2]
Last updated: 4/14/2011

What can I do to help with the pain associated with hemoglobin sickle-beta thalassemia?

Some over-the-counter medications (acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen) may help relieve mild pain. Be sure to talk with your doctor before taking any medication for your pain. Other methods for pain control may also help. These may include a heating pad, hot bath, rest or massage. If you have moderate to severe pain, your doctor might prescribe a prescription pain reliever. Make sure to carefully follow your doctor's instructions for taking the medicine.[2]

Additional resources which discuss pain management are included below.

Last updated: 4/14/2011