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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Reye Syndrome


Reye syndrome is a rare illness that can affect the blood, liver and brain of someone who recently had a viral infection. It always follows another illness. Although it mostly affects children and teens, anyone can get it. It can develop quickly and without warning. It is most common during flu season. Symptoms include
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Listlessness
  • Personality change - such as irritability, combativeness or confusion
  • Delirium
  • Convulsions
  • Loss of consciousness
If these symptoms occur soon after a viral illness, seek medical attention immediately. Reye syndrome can lead to a coma and brain death, so quick diagnosis and treatment are critical. Treatment focuses on preventing brain damage. There is no cure.
The cause of Reye syndrome is unknown. However, studies have shown that taking aspirin increases the risk of getting it. Because of that, health care professionals now recommend other pain relievers for young patients.

What is Reye's Syndrome?
Reye's syndrome (RS) is primarily a children's disease, although it can occur at any age. It affects all organs of the body but is most harmful to the brain and the liver--causing an acute increase of pressure within the brain and, often, massive accumulations of fat in the liver and other organs. RS is defined as a two-phase illness because it generally occurs in conjunction with a previous viral infection, such as the flu or chicken pox. The disorder commonly occurs during recovery from a viral infection, although it can also develop 3 to 5 days after the onset of the viral illness. RS is often misdiagnosed as encephalitis, meningitis, diabetes, drug overdose, poisoning, sudden infant death syndrome, or psychiatric illness. Symptoms of RS include persistent or recurrent vomiting, listlessness, personality changes such as irritability or combativeness, disorientation or confusion, delirium, convulsions, and loss of consciousness. If these symptoms are present during or soon after a viral illness, medical attention should be sought immediately. The symptoms of RS in infants do not follow a typical pattern; for example, vomiting does not always occur. The cause of RS remains a mystery. However studies have shown that using aspirin or salicylate-containing medications to treat viral illnesses increases the risk of developing RS. A physician should be consulted before giving a child any aspirin or anti-nausea medicines during a viral illness, which can mask the symptoms of RS.

Is there any treatment?

There is no cure for RS. Successful management, which depends on early diagnosis, is primarily aimed at protecting the brain against irreversible damage by reducing brain swelling, reversing the metabolic injury, preventing complications in the lungs, and anticipating cardiac arrest. It has been learned that several inborn errors of metabolism mimic RS in that the first manifestation of these errors may be an encephalopathy with liver dysfunction. These disorders must be considered in all suspected cases of RS. Some evidence suggests that treatment in the end stages of RS with hypertonic IV glucose solutions may prevent progression of the syndrome.

What is the prognosis?

Recovery from RS is directly related to the severity of the swelling of the brain. Some people recover completely, while others may sustain varying degrees of brain damage. Those cases in which the disorder progresses rapidly and the patient lapses into a coma have a poorer prognosis than those with a less severe course. Statistics indicate that when RS is diagnosed and treated in its early stages, chances of recovery are excellent. When diagnosis and treatment are delayed, the chances for successful recovery and survival are severely reduced. Unless RS is diagnosed and treated successfully, death is common, often within a few days.

What research is being done?

Much of the research on RS focuses on answering fundamental questions about the disorder such as how problems in the body's metabolism may trigger the nervous system damage characteristic of RS and what role aspirin plays in this life-threatening disorder. The ultimate goal of this research is to improve scientific understanding, diagnosis and medical treatment of RS.


Organizations
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
5600 Fishers Lane, CDER-HFD-240
Rockville, MD 20857
http://www.fda.gov
Tel: 301-827-4573 888-INFO-FDA (463-6332)

National Reye's Syndrome Foundation
P.O. Box 829
426 North Lewis
Bryan, OH 43506-0829
nrsf@reyessyndrome.org
http://www.reyessyndrome.org
Tel: 419-636-2679 800-233-7393
Fax: 419-636-9897


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