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Sickle Cell Patients in More Pain Than Thought

Many are struggling at home almost every day

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 16 (HealthDay News) -- In adults with sickle cell disease, pain can occur daily and is much more severe than previously believed, U.S. researchers report.

The study followed 232 patients who kept diaries to record daily pain and whether they used hospital emergency or outpatient care to manage their pain.

"The major finding of our 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," study director Dr. Wally R. Smith, chairman of the Division of Quality Health Care in the Department of Internal Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, said in a prepared statement.

Smith and his colleagues noted that previous estimates about sickle cell pain and treatments were based on the number of times patients sought medical care for their pain.

In this study, more than half of the patients who completed up to six months of pain diaries reported having pain on most days, and almost one-third reported pain almost daily.

The findings are published in the Jan. 15 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Sickle cell disease is a hereditary red blood cell disorder that is caused by a mutation that changes smooth, round blood cells into a sickle-shaped ones that tend to clot, blocking blood flow to the limbs and organs and causing pain, serious infections and organ damage. In the United States, sickle cell syndromes are present in one in 400 black Americans.

"I believe that this study could change the way people view the pain of the disease. It is a chronic pain syndrome," Smith said. "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."

More information

The Sickle Cell Disease Association of America has more about sickle cell disease.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Annals of Internal Medicine, news release, Jan. 15, 2008

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