Can You Tell it's Sickle Cell?




Sickle cell disorder is the name for a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. The most serious type is called sickle cell anaemia. People with sickle cell disease produce unusually shaped red blood cells that can cause excruciating pain and other problems because they do not live as long as healthy blood cells and can block blood vessels.

Sickle cell disorder is a serious and lifelong health condition, although treatment can help manage many of the symptoms, reduce organ damage and prolong life.

Can you tell it's sickle cell? Knowing the signs can save lives.

Painful episodes are referred to as sickle cell crises. Treatment includes strong painkillers such as morphine to control the pain, intravenous fluids and oxygen.

Anyone can be born with Sickle Cell disorder, but it is most common amongst people from a black Caribbean or black African background.


If you are a carer or living with the condition, do you know the symptoms of a Sickle Cell crisis?

If a person has any of these symptoms, immediate action should be taken as they could be signs of a Sickle Cell crisis or complication:

  • Pain
  • Signs of infection including fever
  • One-sided paralysis or weakness in the face, arms or legs
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty walking or talking
  • Sudden visual changes
  • Unexplained numbness
  • Severe headache
  • Breathlessness, chest pain or low oxygen levels

Acting quickly can save lives.

If someone has these symptoms, they should seek urgent medical attention – this may be via A&E, 999 or their local haematology unit – and should be treated immediately. Patients admitted to the hospital for sickle cell complications should be referred promptly to and treated by haematologists or clinicians with expertise in sickle cell disorders.

Published: Jul 21, 2022