In some cases, a prescription medication called Hydroxyurea can help you manage severe cases of pain caused by sickle cell disease. Hydroxyurea has the ability to stimulate the production of fetal hemoglobin (Hgb F), a type of hemoglobin that does not sickle. Individuals with higher levels of fetal hemoglobin tend to have a milder course of the disease. This usually makes for longer intervals between pain crises and with less severity.
Benefits of Hydroxyurea
Hydroxyurea is not a cure, but it can prevent some pain attacks and other problems from occurring. Individuals who take hydroxyurea have about half the amount of pain episodes and fewer attacks of pneumonia or acute chest syndrome. They do not require as many transfusions or hospitalizations as those not taking hydroxyurea. Studies have shown that patients with higher levels of fetal hemoglobin as a result of taking hydroxyurea live longer than patients not taking hydroxyurea. While taking hydroxyurea, close monitoring of your blood count is mandatory.
Concerns of Hydroxyurea
Hydroxyurea can suppress the bone marrow's production of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Therefore, taking this drug under the direction of a physician experienced in the use of hydroxyurea is mandatory!
There might be a risk to a fetus conceived by a mother or father who is taking hydroxyurea at the time of conception. Therefore, an acceptable method of birth control is necessary while actively taking hydroxyurea. Women who are or want to become pregnant should not take hydroxyurea.
If you are considering the use of hydroxyurea, the following tests are needed:
- Complete blood count, including platelet count, mean corpuscular volume, reticulocyte count
- Liver and renal function tests
- Fetal hemoglobin level
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