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Impact of Undertreated Sickle Cell Pain in the Caribbean



Objective: Undertreated pain around the world includes the acute and chronic pain caused by sickle cell disease (SCD). In collaboration with a Caribbean association that aims to provide assistance to those diagnosed with SCD, we surveyed adults with SCD about pain management and impact of SCD pain.

Methods: Participants were recruited from a group of 55 adults with SCD. A survey was administered to those who agreed to participate. Questions centred on their self-assessed level of pain due to SCD, the extent to which that pain interferes with daily activities, and how they seek and obtain pain relief.

Results: Responses were received from 39 participants (female: n = 28, 72%, male: n = 11, 28%; mean age: 31.6 (SD ± 13.7) years. Sickle cell disease pain significantly disrupts participants’ daily activities (62%), mood (72%), work (64%) and sleep (69%). Prescription medicine was ineffective for 41% and about half (n = 19) sought alternate means of relief.

Conclusion: Sickle cell disease pain is undertreated in the Caribbean, disrupts daily activities and affects quality of life by impinging on education, employment and marital status. Sickle cell disease and other types of pain can be clinically managed safely, effectively and inexpensively. By failing to palliate and overcome the problem of undertreated pain, healthcare systems and providers contribute to socio-economic amongst other repercussions for sufferers, their families and caregivers, and their nations.

June 30, 2014
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