Acute painful episodes in sickle cell anemia patients are usually caused by a vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC), and they should be addressed as a medical emergency.
When sickle-shaped red blood cells choke small blood vessels, inhibiting normal blood flow, VOC develops. This causes tissue damage and discomfort. VOC is the most common cause of acute pain, however, it can also be caused by other circumstances. If the pain is caused by VOC, analgesic medication should be started as soon as feasible. Pain relief should begin within 30 minutes of arrival at the hospital.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) may be sufficient to treat VOC-related pain when it is mild to moderate. In sickle cell anemia patients, NSAIDs such as diclofenac and ibuprofen are often utilized. If the pain persists, an opioid may be prescribed.
Opioids are commonly used to treat a wide range of pain, from mild to severe. For moderate pain, a lower-dose opioid like codeine may suffice.
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