What is Hyperviscosity Syndrome?

Hyperviscosity Syndrome is a pathological condition in which the blood is not able to flow freely through the arteries. There may be blockages due to abundance of RBCs, proteins, or WBCs in the blood. Hyperviscosity Syndrome is mostly seen in infants and young children. This condition can affect their growth as there will be reduced blood flow to the vital organs of their body like the kidneys, liver, and brain.

What is Hyperviscosity Syndrome?

What are the Causes of Hyperviscosity Syndrome?

Hyperviscosity Syndrome develops when there is abundant red blood cells in the blood. This can happen due to numerous causes. In infants, it can happen due to certain conditions that develop during the growing stages of the fetus or during childbirth. These conditions can include:

  • Inappropriate clamping of umbilical cord
  • Inherited medical conditions
  • Certain birth defects
  • Gestational diabetes.

Hyperviscosity Syndrome can also be caused as a result of oxygen not being delivered adequately to the tissues of the child’s body. Hyperviscosity Syndrome can also be caused due to certain bone disorders like leukemia or blood cancer, polycythemia vera, a condition in which too many red blood cells are produced by the bone marrow, essential thrombocytosis, a condition in which excessive platelets are produced by the bone marrow, anemia.

What are the Risk Factors for Hyperviscosity Syndrome?

As stated above, Hyperviscosity Syndrome affects mostly infants and young children but it has the potential to be present even through the adult ages of the child but this depends on whether the child received appropriate treatment and care during childhood for Hyperviscosity Syndrome.

A baby with a family history of Hyperviscosity Syndrome is more prone to have this condition than other babies. People with a history of serious bone conditions are also at risk for developing this condition.

What are the Symptoms of Hyperviscosity Syndrome?

Some of the symptoms of Hyperviscosity Syndrome are:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Reddish skin
  • The baby will be abnormally sleepy
  • The baby will not feed properly
  • There will be visual disturbances.

How is Hyperviscosity Syndrome Diagnosed?

In case if the pediatrician suspects that the infant may have Hyperviscosity Syndrome then the physician will order blood tests to look at the levels of the red blood cells in the blood. If the levels are abnormally increased then it may point decisively towards Hyperviscosity Syndrome. The physician may also do other tests like

  • Urinalysis to check the levels of glucose, blood, and protein in the urine
  • Test to check blood sugar levels
  • BUN to see if the protein is breaking down adequately or not
  • Creatinine levels to check the function of the kidneys
  • A blood gas test to check the levels of oxygen in the blood.

What is the Treatment for Hyperviscosity Syndrome?

Once the diagnosis of Hyperviscosity Syndrome is confirmed, the baby will first be monitored for any possible complications due to this condition. A blood transfusion may be done to decrease the amount of red blood cells in the blood. Fluids may be administered to reduce the thickness of the blood. In case if the infant does not feed then fluids may need to be administered intravenously.

If Hyperviscosity Syndrome is caused due to conditions like leukemia then treatment for that condition is to be done first for symptoms of Hyperviscosity Syndrome to come down.

What is the Survival Rate for Hyperviscosity Syndrome?

If Hyperviscosity Syndrome is only mild in a baby and adequate and prompt treatment is given then there the prognosis for complete recovery is very good. There have been some cases where some children with Hyperviscosity Syndrome tend to develop certain neurological problems later on in life as a result of inadequate amount of oxygen being delivered to the brain. All in all, the prognosis is quite good and babies go on to lead a normal life after being affected with Hyperviscosity Syndrome. If the baby is not responding to treatment and the condition is pretty severe then complications can occur and include stroke, kidney failure, lack of proper motor control, and recurrent seizures due to Hyperviscosity Syndrome.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: July 11, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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