Aug. 1, 2017

Do you believe that there is a way to manage pain when having SickleCell?

It is becoming apparent that the management of pain in patients with sickle cell disease is not as straightforward as once thought. The frequency of painful episodes is grossly underestimated, largely because of prior beliefs that healthcare utilization adequately represents the incidence of crises. Recent studies, however, have shown that the majority of a patient’s pain is actually managed at home. Although the variety of analgesic medication to treat sickle cell pain is seemingly endless, we have seen that each medication has its own set of drawbacks. It is therefore imperative that the clinician tailor medication regimens to the individual patient while being vigilant in recognizing and managing possible complications of each treatment.

We have also observed that the nature of the patient’s pain, whether acute or chronic, can vary during the course of the illness. The subtleties distinguishing these two types of pain can often be overlooked, especially when clinicians fail to recognize key descriptors the patient may use to describe the pain. Better communication between patients and physicians may help to create a clearer understanding of what the pain patients are experiencing away from the healthcare setting. Not only does this aid in more effective management of the patient’s pain, but it also helps to foster a stronger doctor–patient relationship, which in turn works to dissolve many of the social stigmas that currently exist regarding sickle cell disease.