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Henoch-Schönlein purpura ("hen-awk shern-line purr-purr-ah") is a rare condition, usually seen in children, that causes blood vessels to become inflamed. It results in a skin rash and joint and tummy pain.
The medical term for inflammation of the blood vessels is "vasculitis", which means they get irritated and swollen. This inflammation can cause the small surface blood vessels to bleed into the skin, which results in the rash commonly seen in Henoch-Schönlein purpura (HSP). It can also affect blood vessels in the bowel and the kidneys.
HSP usually gets better without treatment and is not usually serious.
HSP typically causes:
It can also result in:
Symptoms usually last for about four to six weeks.
Rarely, HSP can cause potentially serious complications, such as:
HSP is caused by your immune system not working properly. It occurs most often in the spring, usually after an upper respiratory infection such as a sore throat, cough or cold.
The exact cause is unknown. It might be triggered by a bacterial or viral infection, a medicine, an insect bite, or exposure to chemicals.
HSP is not contagious. It occurs most often in children aged two to 11 years, but it can affect anyone.
Your doctor may suspect HSP just by listening to your symptoms and medical history. You may need to be referred to a hospital doctor for a diagnosis.
To help with the diagnosis, they sometimes perform the following tests:
HSP is not usually serious. The rash, joint pains and tummy pain usually get better over days or weeks without needing any treatment.
Anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen or painkillers such as paracetamol may help relieve some of the joint pain. Resting will also help.
Sometimes, steroid medication like [prednisolone] can help severe stomach pain.
Your doctor will want to test your urine and blood pressure regularly for several months to check for kidney problems.
If your child has been diagnosed with HSP, they will need to have their urine tested on a regular basis for six months. This is either performed by yourself or by a nurse (either at the hospital or one who visits your home).
The dipstick test looks for microscopic amounts of blood or protein in your child's urine.
You'll need to collect the first urine your child does in the morning in a clean container. Urine collected later in the day might have a falsely high level of protein in it.
If required, your doctor or a nurse will show you how to dip the urine with the dipsticks and read off the protein and blood levels.
Typically, this test is done frequently in the first few weeks, then monthly, unless your doctor tells you to do it more often. It should be continued for six months.
When blood is seen on the dipstick for the first time, you will need to inform the hospital.
Blood detected on the dipstick is not usually a cause for concern and often continues for several months in HSP. The urine will need to be dipped about once a month until it goes. No further action is needed if your child is well.
If the urine looks red, rusty coloured or bloody to the naked eye, contact the hospital so doctors can check your child's kidneys.
Contact the hospital if:
Usually, HSP gets better on its own within about four weeks and needs urine testing for six months, but generally doesn't cause any lasting problems.
However, some people who have had HSP will get it again.
Kidney inflammation usually gets better without any complications or the need for treatment, but rarely it can lead to kidney failure or kidney damage. It is important to monitor any early signs of kidney problems with the regular urine tests, as instructed by your doctor.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.