What is Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome?

Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome is a pathological condition which arises from abnormal destruction of the red blood cells or the RBCs. As the condition progresses and more and more dead cells accumulate, they start to block the filtering system of the kidneys resulting in some potentially serious complications like kidney failure in association with Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome. Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome is found normally in children due to a bacterium called E. coli. This condition will be preceded by about a couple of weeks of diarrhea which may be bloody. Adults may also develop Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome after an E. coli infection but there may also be other causes like certain classes of medications, infections, or at times the etiology for the condition may not even be known.

What is Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome?

Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome is a potentially serious disease condition but with timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment the affected individual can fully recover from this condition and lead a normal life. This is more so in children.

What are the Causes of Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome?

As stated, the most common cause of Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome is an infection caused by a strain of a bacterium E. coli, especially in children although in adults it maybe caused due to a number of reasons along with an E. coli infection which may be certain class of medications that the individual may be using and sometimes the cause of Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome in adults is not known.

Coming to the root cause of Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome which is the bacterium E. coli, this bacterium is founding most healthy people and is present in the intestines. There are numerous types of E. coli and most of them are harmless but some strains of this bacterium can cause food borne infections including those infections that can lead to Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome. The E. coli bacterium can be found in contaminated meat or pools or lakes contaminated with feces. It is also seen that some people who have been infected with E. coli do not go on to develop Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome and some people who are not infected by this bacterium develop Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome.

In adults, pregnancy is also one of the causes of Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome. Genes may also play a role in development of Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome.

What are the Risk Factors for Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome?

The risk factors for Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome are:

  • Children under the age of 5 are most vulnerable for getting this disease
  • Certain genetic factors also puts people at risk for developing Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome
  • Elderly population are also at an increased risk for developing Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome.

What are the Symptoms of Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome?

Some of the symptoms of Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome are:

  • Bloody diarrhea for more than a week
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Pale skin
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Low grade fever
  • Hematuria
  • At times, nosebleeds
  • Decrease urinary output
  • Swelling of the face or entire body
  • At times, confusion
  • In some cases, certain neurological symptoms like seizures may also develop.

How is Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome Diagnosed?

In case if Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome is suspected by the treating physician, then the following investigations will be ordered in order to confirm the diagnosis. These tests are:

Blood Draws: In cases of Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome, the blood tests will show a decreased platelet count, RBCs, and an increased level of creatinine.

Urinalysis: A urinalysis will also be done to see if any blood is present in the urine.

Stool Tests: This by far will give the clinching evidence of Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome if it shows presence of the offending E. coli bacteria.

What is the Treatment for Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome?

Treatment of Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome is normally done in an inpatient setting. To begin with, as soon as the diagnosis of Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome is confirmed and the patient is admitted he or she will be given fluid replacement to account for the lost fluids and electrolytes due to the diarrhea but this need to be done under close monitoring as the kidneys in Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome do not function normally. Following this, in case of the patient has low levels of then RBCs will be transfused, especially if the patient is feeling fatigued and short of breath. Once RBCs are transfused these symptoms will be taken care of.

In case if the patient has a problem of bleeding and bruising easily, then the patient will be transfused platelets to take care of this problem. Plasmapheresis may be done in some patients who have Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome.

In some cases, if the kidney function is not optimal the patient may have to undergo temporary dialysis, although if there is permanent damage to the kidneys due to Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome then long term dialysis will be required. All these treatments are good enough for a full recovery of a patient despite Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome being a serious condition.

In patients with significant kidney damage due to Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome the patient may need to follow a low protein diet and take antihypertensives to prevent further kidney damage.

What is the Prognosis for Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome?

Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome is a serious medical condition, although with timely diagnosis and intervention the prognosis especially for children is very good and most of them make complete recovery with practically no symptoms at all from Hemolytic-Uremic 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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