Henoch-Schonlein purpura

Alternative names
Anaphylactoid purpura; Vascular purpura

Definition
Henoch-Schonlein purpura is a disease that has the symptoms of purple spots on the skin, joint pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, and glomerulonephritis (a type of kidney disorder).

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Henoch-Schonlein is a type of hypersensitivity vasculitis and inflammatory response within the blood vessel. It is caused by an abnormal response of the immune system. The exact cause for this disorder is unknown.

The syndrome is usually seen in children, but people of any age may be affected. It is more common in boys than in girls. Many people with Henoch-Schonlein purpura had an upper respiratory illness in the previous weeks.

Symptoms

     
  • purple spots on the skin (purpura), usually over the buttocks, lower legs, and elbows  
  • hives or angioedema  
  • joint pains  
  • abdominal pain  
  • nausea  
  • vomiting  
  • diarrhea  
  • stools, bloody  
  • menstruation, painful

Signs and tests

     
  • A physical examination reveals skin lesions and joint tenderness.  
  • A urinalysis shows microscopic blood in the urine.  
  • A skin biopsy shows vasculitis.

Treatment
There is no specific treatment for this disorder. Most cases resolve spontaneously without treatment. If symptoms persist, therapy with corticosteroids such as prednisone is usually tried.

Expectations (prognosis)
The disease usually resolves spontaneously without treatment.

Complications

     
  • recurrence of symptoms  
  • renal impairment (may occur in rare cases)

Calling your health care provider

     
  • Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms of Henoch-Scholnlein purpura develop, particularly if they last for more than a few days.  
  • Call your health care provider if low urine output develops after an episode of Henoch-Schonlein purpura.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 2, 2012
by Arthur A. Poghosian, M.D.

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