Hemolytic uremic syndrome.pngHemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a condition that affects the blood and blood vessels. It results in the destruction of blood platelets (cells involved in clotting), a low red blood cell count (anemia) and kidney failure due to damage to the very small blood vessels of the kidneys. Other organs, such as the brain or heart, may also be affected by damage to very small blood vessels.

What causes hemolytic uremic syndrome?

  • HUS is most common in children. It is the most common cause of acute kidney failure in children.
  • HUS can develop as a result of taking certain medications, or may result from a cancer present in the body, although these causes are less common.
  • Some rare cases of HUS are familial, which suggests a genetic cause.
  • Hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) often occurs after a gastrointestinal infection with E. coli bacteria. However, the condition has also been linked to other gastrointestinal infections, including shigella and salmonella, as well as nongastrointestinal infections.

What are the symptoms of HUS?

Hemolytic uremic syndrome often begins with vomiting and diarrhea, which may be bloody. Within a week, the person may become weak and irritable. Persons with this condition may urinate less than normal. Urine output may almost stop.

Red blood cell destruction leads to symptoms of anemia.

Early symptoms:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea;
  • Blood in the stools;
  • Irritability;
  • Fever;
  • Lethargy;
  • Weakness.

Later symptoms:

  • Decreased consciousness;
  • Skin rash that looks like fine red spots (petechiae);
  • Bruising;
  • Low urine output;
  • No urine output;
  • Pallor;
  • Yellow skin (jaundice);
  • Seizure.

How is HUS treated?

HUS is generally treated with medical care in the hospital. Close attention to fluid volume is very important. This potentially includes intravenous (IV) fluids and nutritional supplementation by IV or tube feeding. A transfusion of blood may also be needed. In about 50 percent of cases, short-term kidney replacement treatment in the form of dialysis is necessary. Most patients who need dialysis will recover kidney function and ultimately be able to discontinue dialysis treatment. At times a special form of treatment called plasmapheresis may also be necessary.

How does HUS affect the kidneys?

In HUS the tiny filter units in the kidneys known as glomeruli become clogged with platelets and damaged red blood cells. This leads to problems with the kidney’s ability to filter and eliminate waste products.

Other Possible Complications

  • Blood clotting problems;
  • Hemolytic anemia;
  • Kidney failure;
  • Nervous system problems;
  • Too few platelets (thrombocytopenia);
  • Uremia.

You can prevent the known cause, E. coli, by cooking fast food and other meats well and by avoiding contact with unclean water.