Since the sickle red blood cells have a much shorter lifespan compared to normal red blood cells, there is a high turnover of blood in the body. When this turnover is faster than the body’s ability to get rid of the breakdown products of the dead red blood cells, hard deposits called gallstones can form in the gallbladder.
Gallstones can cause painful belly pain and can also cause nausea and vomiting. This pain might be worsened with meals.
- Treatment/Prevention: 50% of individuals with sickle cell will develop gallstones and it is difficult to prevent them from forming. If you develop belly pain that is constant, you should have a medical professional evaluate you. Belly pain and fever could be signs of an infection in the gallbladder and you should report to the emergency room.
- Gallstones are usually treated with some type of surgery. Some individuals may choose to have their gallbladder removed after an episode, which will reduce a majority of gallstone episodes.