It’s in Our Blood: Sickle Cell Disease

How you can recognize if your child is in crisis.

Posted: 04/06/2011 12:32 PM EDT

Just last week, sickle cell disease was in the news after model Jourdan Dunn discussed her son’s recent crisis with the disease in which he had to get a blood transfusion in a desperate attempt to ease the pain of his attack.

About one in 12 African Americans carry the trait for sickle cell disease, meaning 1 of every 500 of our children born will have this condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There are many types of sickle cell disease, but the most commonly known one is sickle cell anemia, a blood disorder in which your red blood cells contain too much hemoglobin S, causing them to become sickle-shaped and making it difficult for them to pass through blood vessels.

When these misshapen cells block blood vessels, it can cause sudden and extreme pain, lasting for hours or even days; this is what patients call a crisis. The pain ranges from throbbing and dull to stabbing, varying not only from person to person but from crisis to crisis.

Episodes are usually treated by medication or even blood transfusions, but if the pain is unbearable, people are urged to go to the emergency room immediately because they may have a complication related to the disease.

Since sickle cell symptoms don’t appear until after a child is four months old, parents may not know whether their child is crying because of pain from the disease or is just doing what babies do. Here are some signs that parents can watch out for to know if their child is in crisis:

— Severe abdominal or bone pain
— Shortness of breath
— Delay in growth or puberty
— Fatigue
— Fever
— Loss of color
— Racing heart rate
— The appearance of ulcers on the lower leg
— Yellow eyes and skin

For more about the disease, visit the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America.


(Photo: Daniel Deme/