What you need to know about hemolytic uremic syndrome

Hemolytic uremic syndrome is a serious medical condition that causes damage to the small blood vessels within the body and affects children most commonly. It can cause organ failure like brain, heart, and kidney failure.

While the condition can cause complications, most people can make a complete recovery from it.

Continue reading for more detail on hemolytic uremic syndrome, including the causes, symptoms and treatment options.

What it means

A person with hemolytic uremic syndrome may have headaches, low levels of energy and a bloody diarrhea

Hemolytic uremic syndrome occurs when red blood cells are killed by the body which then blocks the small blood vessels and filters the kidney units. A person can experience acute kidney injury as a result of this obstruction which affects the ability of the kidneys to filter.

The results can be very dangerous to a person’s body because it is the duty of the kidneys to filter the blood to eliminate waste and to produce urine.

Hemolytic uremic syndrome is the leading cause of kidney disease in infants, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) says. Although adults may get hemolytic uremic syndrome, this is considered a rare occurrence by doctors.

Causes

The most common cause of hemolytic uremic syndrome is the Escherichia bacteria bacteria. There are a lot of different kinds of E. Coli, some of whom naturally live in the body. However, it is the 0157:H7 strain which causes infections that can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome.

Children can contact this form of E. Coli eat uncooked, rotten, or improperly processed foods that may include milk and fruit. That E drinking water. Contaminated coli can also cause uremic hemolytic syndrome.

Some kids may experience what doctors call an atypical uremic hemolytic syndrome. This state may have the effect of:

  • experiencing a hereditary hemolytic uremic syndrome
  • having a history of other bacterial or viral infections
  • taking certain medications, including chemotherapy drugs

People with a weakened immune system are more vulnerable to hemolytic uremic syndrome due to a disease or medical treatment.

Symptoms

A person usually develops hemolytic uremic syndrome following a condition that caused severe and sometimes bloody diarrhea. The condition may progress toward hemolytic uremic syndrome, resulting in the following symptoms:

  • bloody diarrhea
  • headaches
  • low energy levels
  • general paleness
  • stomach pain
  • vomiting

One of the commonest symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome is a pale appearance.

The condition causes red blood cells to be destroyed, resulting in a low number of red blood cells or anaemia. Since red blood cells carry oxygen, an individual can begin to appear pale and weak due to a lack of oxygen entering the cells.

Following kidney damage

When the red blood cells damage the kidneys to the extent that they affect the function of the kidneys, the following symptoms may begin to appear:

  • blood in the urine
  • poor urine output
  • swelling, typically in the ankles, feet, or legs

Such symptoms may signify a kidney infection’s progression and signal the need for immediate medical attention. Hemolytic uremic syndrome may cause complications without treatment including:

  • seizures
  • stroke
  • coma

Treatment

A person with hemolytic uremic syndrome must usually require care in the hospital.

The most appropriate treatment strategy would rely on how the body of the person is affected by hemolytic uremic syndrome.

The disease, for example, can cause complications ranging from high blood pressure to blood clotting problems. Many people may even experience seizures. Whenever possible, a doctor will work to address the symptoms and avoid potential complications.

Examples of treatments for hemolytic uremic syndrome which a person may receive include:

  • intravenous fluids and, sometimes, intravenous nutrition
  • blood transfusions, particularly red blood cells and platelets, which help with blood clotting
  • medications to treat high blood pressure
  • short-term kidney dialysis to filter wastes from the blood
  • plasmapheresis to provide healthy plasma to a person’s body

An estimated 50 percent of people with hemolytic uremic syndrome will need short-term dialysis to treat their disease, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Unless the person has other signs of infection, most doctors do not recommend antibiotics to treat the condition. The reason it’s because when the E. Coli bacteria die, releasing toxins which may further damage the kidneys. Hence, if a person with hemolytic uremic syndrome was taking antibiotics, the medication might make their condition worse.

Outlook

An estimated 85 percent or more of those with uremic hemolytic syndrome recover fully from the disease. Even if a person makes full recovery, however, they can experience symptoms at a later time. Such signs may include elevated blood pressure and kidney problems.

People with hemolytic uremic syndrome also have a fairly good outlook, although after the syndrome, around 10 percent will experience severe renal failure.

When to see a doctor

A person should seek immediate medical treatment if the symptoms are as follows:

  • extreme fatigue
  • poor or bloody urine output
  • swelling
  • unexplained bruising

We are particularly concerned when those symptoms accompany a gastrointestinal illness. In general, seeking treatment as quickly as possible will help minimize harm to the kidneys.

Summary

An estimated 2 out of every 100,000 children in the United States experience hemolytic uremic syndrome according to the NIDDK.

A person may experience life-threatening complications without prompt treatment.

Though some people may require dialysis while their kidneys heal, the outlook is generally good for people with hemolytic uremic syndrome.

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