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How is sickle cell disease treated?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Sickle cell anemia may only be cured by a bone marrow transplant, though that process involves much risk. Usually, treatment focuses on relieving sickle cell anemia symptoms and preventing further complications. Antibiotics are often prescribed to children to protect against infection. To increase the number of healthy red blood cells, you may be prescribed a drug called hydroxyurea, or you may be advised to have a blood transfusion. To ease the pain caused by obstructions of sickle cells in small veins, doctors often recommend over the counter pain relievers and application heat to the affected areas.

Sickle cell disease treatments include the following:

  • Medicines such as hydroxyurea. 
  • Painkillers to help get rid of the pain. They mostly come as pills or liquids. If people have a lot of pain, they might need to go to the hospital to get stronger painkillers intravenously (through an IV).
  • Heat, like taking a warm bath or putting a warm towel on the painful area.
  • Antibiotics and vaccinations to stop people from getting serious bacterial infections. Antibiotics come as pills or liquids. Vaccinations are injections that people get once a year. They help prevent infections happening in the first place.
  • Blood transfusions, which give people extra hemoglobin. Transfusions are given as a slow infusion by IV into the bloodstream.
  • Vitamin pills called folic acid, which help the body make new red blood cells (RBCs) to replace the ones that have been broken down.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.