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Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome

What is hemolytic uremic syndrome?

Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a disease caused by damage to the lining of blood vessels. The blood vessel damage causes the red blood cells to be damaged as well, and the damaged red blood cells clog the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys. This makes it harder for the kidney to remove wastes and extra fluid from the blood. It may cause the kidneys to stop working (kidney failure). Blood vessels in other parts of the body may also be affected.

What is the cause?

HUS is most often triggered by infections from food that is contaminated with E. coli or other types of bacteria. It can also be caused by:

  • Bone marrow transplants
  • Medicines used to treat cancer
  • Lupus
  • HIV

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • Unexplained bruises
  • Unusual bleeding
  • Swollen arms or legs
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Decreased urination or blood in the urine
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

How is it diagnosed?

Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Blood tests will show how well your child's kidneys are working and will check your child's blood cells. Your healthcare provider may also check your child's urine for blood or protein and your child's stool for blood. In some cases your provider may use a needle to remove a small piece of kidney for tests (kidney biopsy).

How is it treated?

Your child will be treated in the hospital. The treatment will depend on your child’s condition. Your child may need:

  • IV fluids
  • Medicines to control blood pressure and swelling
  • Blood transfusions
  • Kidney dialysis (a mechanical way to do the work the kidneys normally do)
  • Blood plasma exchange (plasma is the liquid part of blood)

In rare cases, your child may need a kidney transplant.

How can I take care of my child?

Ask your child’s healthcare provider:

  • How and when you will hear your child’s test results
  • How long it will take your child to recover
  • What activities your child should avoid
  • How to take care of your child at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when you should bring your child back for a checkup.

How can I help prevent HUS?

HUS is most commonly caused by infection with E. Coli bacteria. Here are some things you can do to help prevent infection with bacteria:

  • Thoroughly cook meat.
  • Wash your hands well before you prepare food.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables well before eating them.
  • Make sure that you and your children wash hands after being in contact with cattle, animals in a petting zoo, or the place where animals live.
  • Avoid drinking or eating unpasteurized dairy products or juices.

There is no way to prevent HUS caused by medicines, bone marrow transplants, or other diseases.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-01-25
Last reviewed: 2013-01-22
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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