Treatment for sickle cell disease is ongoing and aimed at limiting your pain and the number of crises you experience.
In addition to pain medications, you may be prescribed hydroxyurea, which lessens anemia and reduces the number of crises, thus limiting the number of blood transfusions you may need. The high rate of red blood cell production associated with sickle cell disease requires significant amounts of folic acid, so you may be prescribed a supplement.
Sickle cell disease can cause you to become dehydrated. In addition to drinking plenty of fluids, you may need IV fluids.
You may require blood transfusions if you become severely anemic. Transfusions may also be needed to combat complications common to sickle cell disease, such as stroke or acute chest syndrome, a lung-related complication that can lower the levels of oxygen in the blood.
Hip or knee replacement surgery may be needed if your sickle cell disease causes the death of bone tissue due to a lack of blood flow. In children with sickle cell, surgery to remove the spleen or gallbladder may be needed.
Duke is a leader in this treatment for sickle cell disease in both children and adults. Though risky, a bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplantation, using blood marrow transplanted from a closely matched donor or stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood, may offer the chance for a cure.
Duke is at the forefront of hopeful research into gene therapy, which involves giving you a normal copy of the gene responsible for sickle cell disease to replace the faulty gene. Our doctors are also testing the effectiveness of new agents, such as nitric oxide, which causes the blood vessels to expand, and compounds that act like hydroxyurea to reduce the sickling of blood.