Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome (HUS)

What is hemolytic-uremic syndrome?

Hemolytic-uremic syndrome is an ailment that affects the blood and the blood vessels in the body. It destroys the platelets in the blood (which is what allows the blood to clot), it reduces the red blood cell count (this is also known as anemia and these are the cells that carry oxygen throughout the body) and damages the blood vessels of the body. This is a syndrome that can be life-threatening to a person.

It is a non-contagious condition and it is normally caused due to the effects of something else in the form of a complication. Hemolytic-uremic syndrome can be caused by:

  • In children, it can be caused by long bouts of diarrhea that last 5 to 10 days.
  • In a majority of cases, it is a complication that arises due to an E. coli infection. This happens when the E. coli infection spreads into the bloodstream.
  • It can be caused by certain medications as well. Some chemotherapy, immunosuppressant, and antiplatelet medications can be the cause of HUS in rare cases.
  • In other rare cases, some infections can cause it as well. Conditions like HIV/AIDS or infections that stem from pneumococcal bacteria can be the source of HUS as well.

What are the symptoms and who has a higher risk of contracting HUS?

In most cases of hemolytic-uremic syndrome, the cause is E. coli. There are certain people who are at higher risk, even though anyone is capable of getting it, like the young, old, those with a genetic susceptibility, and those with a weaker immune system. Before the HUS symptoms come about, the E.coli symptoms will have been plaguing the person for about a week. These symptoms include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea (it has a tendency of being bloody), and stomach pain or cramps. HUS will then surface and have a whole host of symptoms of its’ own, including:

  • Bloody diarrhea
  • The decrease in the frequency of urination
  • Pallor- which is paleness or loss of color in the skin
  • Small bruises without a known cause
  • Bleeding from the nose or the mouth
  • Fatigue and irritability
  • Swelling in various parts of the body like the face and the extremities
  • Increased blood pressure

What types of complications are associated with hemolytic-uremic syndrome?

HUS is a serious complication that is commonly caused by E. coli, but there are some serious complications that can stem from the hemolytic-uremic syndrome. These complications are serious and could, ultimately, be life-altering and life-threatening.

  • Dehydration is a serious side effect of HUS because of the difficulty to keep down food and liquids.
  • Kidney failure is a possible complication. Kidney failure is the inability of the kidneys to filter blood as they are supposed to. When kidneys lose 10% of their function it is considered kidney failure.
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke is another possible complication. A stroke is when a part of the brain is deprived of oxygen because the blood flow has been cut off. This can cause serious damage to brain cells and it can cause them to begin to die.
  • Coma is an unconscious state that lasts for an unknown period of time. This usually happens when a person experiences traumatic injuries or illness.
  • Intestinal issues can arise, such as inflammatory colitis, due to the destruction and damage of blood vessels throughout the body.
  • Heart problems can also arise due to the damage of blood vessels.

How do you treat hemolytic-uremic syndrome and how can a person prevent it from happening?

This serious condition has a serious treatment regimen that is going to require an extended hospital stay. It will require different treatments in order to treat the different symptoms that are brought about by this syndrome. It all depends on what symptoms the person is dealing with.

  • One of the things that will need to be treated is the lack of food and nutrients through IV fluids and tube feeding.
  • Blood transfusions
  • Dialysis
  • Plasmapheresis

There is a chance that a person may have lasting kidney issues and high blood pressure. Most people are likely to have a full recovery even if they required dialysis. Ultimately, people need to take the right steps to prevent this serious condition from happening. The best way to prevent HUS is to prevent E. coli. Cleanliness and proper procedures with food storage, cleaning, and preparations are necessary for preventing E. coli.