Those With Sickle Cell Disease Experience Pain More Often Than Researchers Originally Thought, Study Finds
People with sickle cell disease experience pain more often and in more severe forms than originally thought, according to a study in Annals of Internal Medicine, Reuters reports. Sickle cell disease affects one in every 500 U.S. blacks and is common among residents of West and Central Africa. Blood cells of those with the disease become hard and pointed and can cause anemia, pain and other problems, such as blocking blood flow to the limbs and organs.
For the study, Wally Smith of Virginia Commonwealth University and colleagues followed 232 Virginia patients who recorded their daily pain levels for six months. Patients reported whether they sought care through a hospital for their pain.
According to the study, more than half the patients experienced pain on a majority of days and nearly one-third of patients experienced pain on almost a daily basis. The study said, "Pain in adults with sickle cell disease is the rule rather than the exception and is far more prevalent and severe than previous large-scale studies have portrayed."
The study added that pain is "mostly managed at home; therefore, its prevalence is probably underestimated by health care providers, resulting in misclassification, distorted communication and undertreatment."
In a statement, Smith said, "We need more drugs to prevent the underlying processes that cause pain in this disease. And we need better treatments to reduce the chronic pain and suffering that these patients go through" (Dunham, Reuters, 1/14).
An abstract of the study is available online.