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Sickle Cell Disease Pain Can Occur Daily and Is Much More Severe Than Previously Thought
Date:1/14/2008

PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- A new prospective study of pain in adults with sickle cell disease finds that daily pain is far more prevalent and severe than previous large studies have indicated.

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.

"The major finding of our study," said Wally R. Smith, MD, who directed the new study, "was that pain in sickle cell disease is a daily phenomenon and that 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 Jan. 15, 2008, issue of 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.

Sickle cell disease is caused by a mutation in a red blood cell gene that changes smooth, round blood cells into a sickle-shaped or C-shaped cells that are stiff and sticky and tend to clot in blood vessels. When they get stuck in small blood vessels, the sickle cells block blood flow to the limbs and organs and can cause pain, serious infections, and organ damage, especially in the lungs, kidneys, spleen and brain. Because of the potential for damage to organs, people with sickle cell disease have shorter-than-average life expectancy.

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SOURCE American College of Physicians
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