Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS)

Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a condition that results from the abnormal premature destruction of red blood cells. Once this process begins, the damaged red blood cells start to clog the filtering system in the kidneys, which may eventually cause the life-threatening kidney failure associated with hemolytic uremic syndrome.

Most cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome develop in children after two to 14 days of diarrhea — often bloody — due to infection with a certain strain of Escherichia coli (E. coli). Adults also may develop hemolytic uremic syndrome after an E. coli infection, but the cause also may be certain medications, other types of infections, pregnancy or it may be unknown.

Though hemolytic uremic syndrome is a serious condition, getting timely and appropriate treatment leads to a full recovery for most people — especially young children.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Signs and symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome may include:

  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pale skin tone
  • Fatigue and irritability
  • Fever, usually not high and may not be present at all
  • Blood in the urine
  • Small, unexplained bruises or bleeding from the nose and mouth
  • Decreased urination or blood in the urine
  • Swelling of the face, hands, feet or entire body
  • Confusion

Sometimes neurological symptoms, such as seizures, develop as well.

When to see a doctor

Call your doctor immediately if you or your child experiences unexplained bruises, bloody diarrhea, unusual bleeding, swollen limbs, extreme fatigue or decreased urine output after several days of diarrhea. Seek emergency care if you or your child doesn't urinate for 12 hours or more.

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