Clinical update

Understanding the pain of sickle cell disease

Nurses need more training to help patients experiencing peaks of pain
Sickle cell

Essential facts

Sickle cell disease is a group of disorders of red blood cells that is believed to affect up to 15,000 people in the UK. The lifelong condition can have a significant impact on morbidity and mortality.

Photo: Science Photo Library

Changes in haemoglobin, which carries oxygen, makes red blood cells rigid and sickle-shaped, which can block small blood vessels. This leads to crises that can be excruciatingly painful and damage organs.

The red blood cells also do not last as long as the more flexible red blood cells in people without the condition. Screening for sickle cell disease is offered to all pregnant women who may be affected in the UK.

What’s new

Nurses need more training and information on how to care for people with sickle cell disease, this year’s RCN congress in Glasgow heard. Poor care can put patients’ lives at


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