Information for the public
Acute painful sickle cell episodes
Acute painful sickle cell episodes (also sometimes known as painful crises) are one of the most common and upsetting effects of sickle cell disease.
These painful episodes are often unpredictable, but they can have different causes, such as infection, lack of fluids (dehydration) or low levels of oxygen in the blood. The episodes happen when the sickle-shaped red blood cells block small blood vessels so that the blood does not flow normally. This damages the tissue, which causes pain. Some painful episodes may be worse than others, but the pain can be very severe.
A painful episode usually lasts for a few days, but it may be shorter or longer. Most painful episodes can be treated at home, but if the pain is very bad the person may have to go to hospital. The NICE guidance is about treating painful episodes in hospital.