Tuesday, October 5, 2021



It's pretty well known that pain is the hallmark of sickle cell disease and that a crisis or sickling of the red blood cells can be triggered by conditions associated with low oxygen levels, increased blood acidity or low blood volume. Common sickle cell crisis triggers include: sudden change in temperature, which can make the blood vessels narrow, very strenuous or excessive exercise due to shortage of oxygen.

Studies have also shown that stress or the fear of pain can trigger crisis in patients with sickle cell anemia because it (physical and mental stress) causes the blood vessels to become narrow (as in the case of sudden change in temperature) thus triggering painful vaso-occlusive crisis. Emotional stress is also a known trigger of crisis however the reasons for this association are yet unclear. Individuals who do not suffer from sickle cell disease and those who do, may be exposed to the same levels of stress yet will not experience pain or crisis because they do not have the sickled blood cells that become entrapped small blood vessels as is the case with sickle cell patients.

Using my sister as an example, the stress of school back in the day was always something that triggered multiple painful episodes of pain for her; if she became anxious or nervous about an upcoming test or exam, turning in assignments or giving a presentation, the weight of those tasks on her mentally and emotionally would always instantly trigger a crisis that ended in hospitalization. Managing her stress levels became important and necessary for her to have a good quality of life.

There are over the counter and prescribed medication that can help with the pain but medical professionals also recommend treatment to help manage stress, some of which include activities that you can do at home. Increased fluid intake and getting lots of rest are some recommendations for stress management but others include counselling, getting proper uninterrupted sleep and practicing some relaxation methods like meditation. Make sure to speak with your doctor if you are under stress that's triggering crises to see what treatment is safe and best for you.

Excess Love,


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