The Silent Damage of Sickle Cell

The Silent Damage of Sickle Cell

The Silent Damage

Although pain is the most common symptom, sickle cell is much more than pain. Sickled red blood cells don’t deliver oxygen to your body’s organs, tissues, and bones as well as healthy red blood cells do. And your organs need oxygen. There may be gradual damage that happens to your body’s organs, tissues or bones that you might not see or feel. This damage can add up over time and may occur even if you don’t have a pain crisis. It can also occur long after a pain crisis has passed. That’s the silent damage of sickle cell.

What is the Impact of Silent Damage?

With sickle cell, damage may be happening to your body whether or not you have pain. And it’s all because your red blood cells are not delivering enough oxygen to your body. Without oxygen, any organ in your body can be affected over time. That includes your:

  • Brain
  • Eyes
  • Heart and lungs
  • Liver and gallbladder
  • Spleen
  • Kidneys
  • Bones
  • Other organs

Over time, these effects can build up and cause illness, serious complications, and even shortened lifespan.

Medical illustration comparing healthy tissues, bones and organs supplied by healthy red blood cells with those that do not receive enough oxygen

What Can I Do to Detect Silent Damage?

Screening for silent damage is one way you and your doctor can be proactive in your healthcare. Screening tests are tests that detect changes, or worsening of changes, as early as possible. Ask your healthcare provider what types of screenings are recommended for you and when you should do them.


Woman in yellow cardigan talking to her doctor