What is it?
Henoch Schonlein Purpura is a disease that mostly affects children. This disease is also referred to as:
1. Schonlein–Henoch Purpura
2. Anaphylactoid Purpura
3. Purpura Rheumatica
Before we go any further- Purpura is a Latin word which means “purple”. The word is used to describe purplish or red discoloration on the patient’s skin which is usually caused by bleeding beneath the skin. This disease usually affects the skin and other organs such as the kidney and in rare occasions the spinal cord and brain.
When the disease (Henoch Schonlein Purpura) affects the skin, ( minor hemorrhages caused by bleeding under the skin) its’ usually accompanied with pain in the joints (ankles, elbows and knees) and abdominal. Vomiting, constipation, diarrhea and nausea usually follow. Sometimes, mucus or blood can also be discovered after a bowel movement.
When it affects the organs (usually the kidneys) it can often lead up to more severe kidney disease, fortunately- this is quite rare. (one in a hundred cases) Forty percent of patients with this disease may pass blood in urine that usually contain small amounts of protein although sometimes it isn’t noticeable if the blood is minimal.
This disease also causes gastrointestinal hemorrhage which happens in about thirty three percent of the cases. Other organs that can be affected are the spinal cord, lungs and brain but these are few.
It is a systemic vasculitis (an inflammation of the blood vessels) disease caused by immune complexes that are deposited in our organs. Immune complexes are formed when an antibody binds itself to an antigen. (foreign microbes)
What causes this is yet unknown to medical science. HSP usually resolves on its own in about 3-4 weeks but may reappear in one out of a hundred cases causing severe kidney damage. HSP may sometimes lead up to pharyngitis- which refers to an inflammation of the throat, which can cause a huge extreme discomfort.
Diagnosis and Causes
Specialists diagnose the disease by observing an assortment of symptoms that usually appear together. Skin lesions, discolorations, pain in the joints and abdominal are symptoms that often appear together. Symptoms also include vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, nausea while blood and also mucus might be observed in stools.
Undergoing a blood test may reveal increased levels of creatine when the kidneys are involved. At times, a biopsy of the skin will be done to diagnose the disease and differentiate it from other diseases.
If there is doubt about the cause of the skin lesions, a biopsy of the skin would be carried out to distinguish the Purpura from other diseases. A biopsy of the kidney is also carried out to check for increased levels of white blood cells, and development of cresents for an accurate diagnosis.
HSP may also develop after contracting rubella hepatitis B, measles, herpes simplex virus mumps and other diseases. What causes HSP exactly is a mystery, but appearances and depositions of unusual antibodies in the wall of blood vessels creates inflammation of the blood vessels. ( vasculitis )
Usually, other than treating the symptoms themselves which include pain killers for pain in the joints and abdominal, it’s unknown if the disease requires treatment because it vanishes quite quickly. HSP patients usually recover from the disease very quickly so there are no types of therapy or specific treatment offered at this moment.
Most doctors and specialists avoid prescribing steroids but when a disease is diagnosed at an early stage, steroids can quickly reduce symptoms and the pain caused by the symptoms themselves. Kidney complications are also reduced when steroids are prescribed at an early stage of the disease.
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