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Henoch-Schönlein purpura

Definition

Henoch-Schönlein purpura is a disease that involves purple spots on the skin, joint pain, gastrointestinal problems, and glomerulonephritis (a type of kidney disorder).

Alternative Names

Leukocytoclastic vasculitis; Anaphylactoid purpura; Vascular purpura

Causes

Henoch-Schönlein is caused by an abnormal response of the immune system. The result is inflammation in the microscopic blood vessels in the skin. Blood vessels in the joints, kidneys, or the intestines may also be affected. It is unclear why this occurs.

The syndrome is mostly seen in children, but it may affect people of any age. It is more common in boys than in girls. Many people who develop this disease had an upper respiratory infection in the weeks before.

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will look at your body and look at your skin. The physical exam will show skin sores (purpura, lesions) and joint tenderness.

Tests may include:

  • Skin biopsy
  • Urinalysis
  • Blood tests to look for other causes of blood vessel inflammation, such as systemic lupus erythematosus or hepatitis

Treatment

There is no specific treatment. Most cases go away on their own. If symptoms do not go away, you need to take corticosteroid medicine such as prednisone.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The disease most often gets better on its own.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

  • Bleeding inside the body
  • Kidney problems (in rare cases)

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if:

  • You develop symptoms of Henoch-Schönlein purpura, and they last for more than a few days.
  • You have low urine output after an episode of Henoch-Schönlein purpura.

References

Ardoin SP, Fels E. Vasculitis syndromes. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton B, St. Geme J, Schor N, Behrman RE, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 161.

Marcdante KJ, Kliegman RM. Henoch-Schöenlein purpura. In: Marcdante KJ, Kliegman RM, eds. Nelson Essentials of Pediatrics. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 87.


Review Date: 4/28/2015
Reviewed By: Gordon A. Starkebaum, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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