London, Jan 27 : Contrary to results from previous researches, a new study has shown that pain can be more acute and long lasting in patients with sickle cell disease.
Sickle cell disease is caused by a mutation in a red blood cell gene that changes smooth, round blood cells into a sickle-shaped or C-shaped cells that are stiff and sticky and tend to clot in blood vessels.
They obstruct the flow of blood to the limbs and organs and can cause pain, serious infections, and organ damage in the lungs, kidneys, spleen and brain.
For the study, the researchers, led by Dr Wally Smith of Virginia Commonwealth University, asked 232 sickle cell patients to keep diaries.
According to the studies conducted earlier, it was assumed that, if patients did not seek help, then they were not in pain.
After looking into the diaries, the researchers found that patients reported pain on a majority of days and almost a third had pain almost every day.
"The major finding of our study was that pain in sickle cell disease is a daily phenomenon and that patients are at home mostly struggling with their pain rather than coming into the hospital or emergency department," BBC quoted Dr Smith, as saying.
"I believe that this study could change the way people view the pain of the disease," he added.
Dr Alison Streetly, medical advisor to the Sickle Cell Society and director of the NHS Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia Screening Programme said that the finding would help raise awareness about the disease.
"There is a tendency to underestimate the serious impact sickle cell can have on people's lives. Many people with the condition are living with pain on a regular basis, but managing it on their own. It is important that the NHS takes it seriously," Dr Streetly said.
However, Dr Smith said that more drugs are required to prevent pain and suffering.
"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," he said.