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Sickle Cell Crisis (Pain Crisis)

What Is a Sickle Cell Crisis?

Sickle cell disease changes the shape of a person's red blood cells. Instead of being flexible and disc-shaped, they are curved and stiff. These sickle-shaped blood cells don't flow through veins easily, so they can clog someone's small blood vessels. When this happens, the person has what doctors call a sickle cell crisis or "pain crisis."

Sickle cell crisis is an emergency. Because blood can't flow well to the body's organs (like the heart, lungs, and kidneys), these organs can't do their job. People who do not get medical treatment for a pain crisis may have long-term organ damage.

How to Recognize a Sickle Cell Crisis

The most common sign of a sickle cell crisis is extreme pain in the chest or stomach.

Some people also have:

See a doctor or call 911 right away if you have sickle cell disease and notice any of these things happening to you.

Preventing a Sickle Cell Crisis

You can't always avoid a sickle cell crisis. Sometimes the reasons they happen are out of your control, like when you're sick.

But you can lower your chances of having a crisis by doing these things:

Date reviewed: September 2015

Note: All information on TeensHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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