Eli5: How do Sickle Cell crises work and why do they hurt?


Hi everyone

So I already know about the red blood cell shape and then getting stuck together but I want to know why it hurts when that happens and why the pain can suddenly spread all over.

Thank you

In: Biology

You ever take a big poop then clog the toilet? That’s what’s going on in the blood vessels of someone with a sickle cell crisis. The sickled red blood cells don’t go through your body’s plumbing as well as normal ones and they get stuck like your giant poops do.

When they get stuck, the tissues that those blood vessels supply don’t get any oxygen. Without oxygen, those tissues start to die (like how without oxygen to breathe, we die). The death of those tissues causes pain from inflammation.

Another example of pain from lack of oxygen is in heart attacks. The flow of blood to the heart is cut off and then you end up with tissue death and chest pain.