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What is Henoch-Schonlein Purpura?
Henoch-Schonlein Purpura is a condition that causes blood vessels to become inflamed (irritated and swollen). This inflammation is called vasculitis. It usually affects the small blood vessels in the skin (capillaries). It can also affect capillaries in the bowel and the kidneys. When the blood vessels get inflamed, they can bleed. When this happens in the skin, it causes a rash that is called purpura.
What Causes HSP?
HSP is caused when a persons immune system does not fight an infection properly. It occurs most often in the Spring, usually after an infection, like a cold. HSP mostly affects children from 2 to 11 years of age, but it can occur in anyone. Its exact cause is unknown. It might be triggered by bacterial or viral infections, medicines, vaccinations or exposure to chemicals or cold weather. You may catch an infection that caused someone's immune system to respond with HSP, but HSP itself is not contagious. We do not know how to prevent HSP from occurring.
What are the Symptoms of HSP?
HSP causes a skin rash, pains in the joints and stomach pain. The rash looks like small bruises or reddish purple spots. It is usually seen on the buttocks, around the elbows and on the legs. HSP can also cause fever, nausea, and diarrhoea. The symptoms usually last for between 4-6 weeks. If the blood vessels in the bowel and the kidneys get inflamed, HSP can make you bleed when your bowels are opened or when you urinate. Serious kidney problems do not happen very often but they can occur. In rare cases an abnormal folding of the bowel (called intussusception) can occur.
How is HSP Treated?
There is no specific treatment for HSP. Medicines can help you feel better/treat an infection that may have triggered HSP. Fortunately HSP usually gets better without any treatment whatsoever. Anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen can be useful if joints are painful. Occasionally a short course of steroids is required.
What Happens to People with HSP?
Most people with HSP make a complete and uneventful recovery. About half of the people who have had HSP once will get it again. A small minority who have had HSP can develop kidney damage as a result. Regular urine checks and blood pressure checks are required for a time to identify if any kidney problems are developing. It is important that you attend for follow-up as instructed by your doctor.