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Reye's Syndrome

Reye's Syndrome Causes

Reye's syndrome may affect otherwise healthy children within a week after suffering from viral infections such as chickenpox or influenza. The disease can even develop after a bout with an ordinary infection such as a cold. Although the exact cause of Reye's syndrome is not yet known, the disease is closely associated with the consumption of aspirin to manage the previously occurring viral illness.

Reye's Syndrome Definition

Reye's syndrome is a disease commonly occurring in children characterized by a range of several detrimental effects to many organs in the body, particularly the liver and the brain. If undiagnosed and untreated early, it can be potentially fatal.

Reye's Syndrome Diagnosis

If Reye's syndrome is suspected, blood tests may be done to evaluate the patient's liver function. Other possible causes of liver problems and neurological abnormalities may also be tested. Other diagnostic measures include a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to rule out other possible bacterial or viral infections, and a liver biopsy to rule out other possible causes of the liver problems. Diagnosing the disease in its early stage is extremely crucial. If undetected, Reye's syndrome can lead to severe brain damage and death.

Reye's Syndrome Symptoms and Signs

Reye's syndrome generally manifests within a week after a bout with a viral infection, such as chickenpox and influenza. As the child appears to be recovering from the infection, a more serious illness begins to develop. At the onset, affected children may demonstrate a decline in mental alertness, vomiting, persistent nausea, disoriented behavior, lethargy or unusual sleepiness, and uncharacteristic aggression. Symptoms of Reye's syndrome progresses rapidly, and may worsen within a matter of hours. In severe stages, children may experience loss of consciousness, weakness, paralysis of the extremities, as well as convulsions and seizures. When these symptoms emerge, emergency treatment is invariably required. Reye's syndrome mostly affects children between 4 and 12 years old.

Reye's Syndrome Treatment

Children diagnosed with this potentially fatal syndrome need to be immediately admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit. Treatment may involve medications such as glucose to elevate low blood sugar, small amounts of insulin to increase sugar metabolism, electrolyte solutions to correct blood chemistry values, and basic solutions to manage acidity. These are often administered intravenously. To reduce the swelling and inflammation of the brain, corticosteroid drugs may be administered. In addition, diuretics such as mannitol may be helpful in facilitating fluid loss through urination, thus reducing the brain swelling. In advanced stages, Reye's syndrome may necessitate the use of a ventilator to artificially assist the patient's breathing.

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