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Sickle Cell


There are a number of different ways that sickle cell is treated. You can read about the main types of treatment on the tabs above. You can talk to your team if you have any questions or about your condition specifically.

You might be prescribed medication to help manage your sickle cell. Sometimes sickle cell causes your body to find it difficult to absorb vitamins and minerals and so you may be given these alongside antibiotics that help protect you from infections. The below are some of those you may have heard of:

  • Penicillin: Someone with sickle cell disorders is at risk of developing severe infections, and is strongly advised to take penicillin twice a day every day. Taking penicillin does not reduce the risk of getting an infection but it does mean that the body is more able to resist infections that everyone is vulnerable to, and allows time for medical attention to be sought before the condition becomes serious. Taking penicillin will not treat pain, and forgetting to take a dose does not give rise to pain, but it is important in the management of sickle cell disorder.
  • Folic Acid: Dietary supplements like folic acid helps the body produce red blood cells. This may sometimes be required to help improve anaemia if you are eating a vegetarian or vegan diet.
  • Vitamin D: Many people with Sickle Cell Disease have a vitamin D deficiency. This can be improved by taking vitamin D. This supports with bone health and can help to prevent any bone health related issues in the future.
  • Hydroxycarbamide: If you continue to have episodes of pain, a medicine called hydroxycarbamide (hydroxyurea) may be recommended. You usually take it as a capsule once a day. The dose depends on your weight and current blood results. A side effect of Hydroxycarbamide is that it can lower the amount of other blood cells, such as white blood cells and platelets so you'll usually have regular blood tests to monitor your health.

Blood Transfusions
A blood transfusion may be needed if you have a shortage of red blood cells. This may be because your body's not making enough red blood cells or because you have lost blood. A blood transfusion can replace blood you have lost, or just replace the liquid or cells found in blood (such as red blood cells, plasma or cells called platelets). Ask your doctor or nurse why they think you might need a transfusion if you're not sure. You can read more about blood transfusions here.

Bone Marrow Transplants
Bone marrow transplants are the only cure for sickle cell disease, but they're not done very often because of the significant risks involved. Stem cells are contained in the bone marrow in the middle of your bones and these produce the different parts that make up your blood and immune system. These stem cells can be obtained from a donor in a number of ways and can then be given by a transfusion into a vein of someone with sickle cell.

These stem cells enable your body to start producing healthy red blood cells to replace the sickle cells. You can read more about what a bone marrow transplant is and what it involves here.

Bone marrow transplants are generally only considered when sickle cell disease causes severe symptoms that have not responded to other treatments, when the long-term benefits of a transplant are thought to outweigh the possible risks.