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Living well with Sickle Cell Disease

Affecting an estimated 90,000 – 100,000 people in the United States, Sickle Cell Disease:

  • Is an inherited red blood cell disorder that can block the flow of blood and oxygen to organs in the body
  • Can cause repeated episodes of sudden mild or severe pain, organ damage, serious infections, or even stroke
  • Can cause hands and feet to swell (called Hand-Foot Syndrome), long-term eye damage, and acute chest syndrome, which is similar to pneumonia
  • Can result in flu, meningitis, and hepatitis, especially in infants and children

Humana Healthy Horizons™ in Florida members with Sickle Cell Disease:

  • Can get additional services and care through our Care Management program
  • Can speak with a Care Manager or enroll in our Care Management Program by calling 1-800-229-9880 (TTY: 711), Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Eastern time

For people with Sickle Cell Disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following management steps:

Annual comprehensive exams

  • Retinal or dilated eye exam, to detect problems of the eye before they lead to loss of vision
  • Transcranial Doppler ultrasound screening, to identify higher risk for stroke
  • Blood tests, to check for other health problems, such as anemia or organ damage
  • Urine testing, to detect early kidney problems or infections
  • Dental exam, every six to 12 months
  • Immunizations, per your doctor’s recommendation
  • Flu shot, yearly for everyone six months and older

Prevent infections

To prevent infections, people with Sickle Cell Disease should:

  • Wash hands often – Use soap and clean water, or gel hand cleaners with alcohol in them, often during the day
  • Practice good food safety – Stay safe when cooking and eating (e.g., wash hands, surfaces and utensils often; wash fruit and vegetables before eating; cook meat until done; do not eat raw or undercooked eggs; and do not eat raw or unpasteurized milk or other dairy products, like cheese)
  • Avoid reptiles – Stay away from turtles, snakes, and lizards to decrease your risk of coming into contact with bacteria (salmonella)
  • Take penicillin – Take penicillin (or other antibiotic your doctor prescribes) until at least 5 years of age

Treatment

Doctors treating Sickle Cell Disease aim to relieve pain and to prevent infections. Treatment options are different for each person, and can include:

  • Drinking between 8 and 10 glasses of water every day
  • Getting IV (intravenous) therapy and medicine to help with pain
  • Blood transfusions
  • Bone marrow or stem cell transplant
  • When to get care

Go to an emergency room or urgent-care facility right away for:

  • Abdominal (belly) swelling
  • Chest pain
  • Difficult breathing
  • Fever above 101 °F
  • Painful erection that lasts longer than four hours
  • Seizure
  • Severe headache
  • Sudden weakness or loss of feeling and movement

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Pain anywhere in your body that will not go away with treatment at home
  • Any sudden vision problems

Action Plan

To help you manage and control your Sickle Cell Disease, your doctor will help you create an action plan that will include information about:

  • What can trigger pain crises or other symptoms, healthy behaviors, and the importance of self-care and stress management
  • When to call your doctor or other healthcare provider
  • When to seek care (e.g., urgent care center, via telemedicine, or at an emergency room)

You can get more information about Sickle Cell Disease, including current vaccine information and other tips for staying safe and well, at www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/sicklecell, opens new window.

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