What is Reye’s syndrome?

Reye’s syndrome is a rare condition that results to serious damage to the liver and brain. If not promptly managed, it can lead to permanent injury to the brain or even death.

The condition mainly affects children and young adults below 20 years old.

What are the indications?

The signs of Reye’s syndrome generally manifest a few days after a viral infection such as chickenpox, flu or common cold.

The primary signs might include:

  • Repeated episodes of vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Rapid breathing
    Reye’s syndrome

    The signs of Reye’s syndrome generally manifest a few days after a viral infection such as chickenpox, flu or common cold.

  • Fatigue and lack of interest

As the condition continues, the signs might become severe and wide range such as:

  • Irritability, illogical or hostile behavior
  • Significant anxiety and uncertainty that is often linked with hallucinations
  • Loss of consciousness or coma

What are the causes?

The precise cause of Reye’s syndrome is unknown, but it typically affects children and young adults who are recuperating from a viral infection such as flu, common cold or chickenpox.

In most instances, aspirin has been utilized to manage the symptoms, thus it can trigger Reye’s syndrome.

If the condition develops, it is believed that the miniature structures inside the cells known as mitochondria are damaged. The mitochondria supply the cells with energy and vital for the healthy functioning of the liver.

Once the liver loses its supply of energy, it starts to fail. This can lead to the detrimental accumulation of toxic chemicals in the blood that can damage the whole body and result to the swelling of the brain.

Management of Reye’s syndrome

In case Reye’s syndrome is confirmed, the child might be admitted to an intensive care unit. The treatment is aimed on reducing the symptoms as well as support the vital functions of the body such as breathing and blood circulation.

It is also vital to protect the brain from lasting damage due to the swelling. Drugs might be administered directly intravenously such as:

  • Fluids and electrolytes – to restore the level of minerals, salts and nutrients such as glucose in the blood
  • Diuretics – these drugs work by eliminating the excess fluid in the body and reduce the swelling in the brain
  • Ammonia detoxicants – these drugs work by reducing the amount of ammonia
  • Anticonvulsants – these drugs are responsible for controlling the seizures

In some cases, a ventilator might be utilized if the child requires assistance with breathing.

The vital bodily functions are also closely monitored including the heart rate and pulse, blood pressure, air flow to the lungs and the body temperature.

Once the brain swelling has lessened, the other bodily functions are expected to return to normal in a few days, but it might take several weeks before the child get well enough to be discharged.


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