Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a condition that can occur when the small blood vessels in your kidneys become damaged and inflamed. This damage can cause clots to form in the vessels. The clots clog the filtering system in the kidneys and lead to kidney failure, which could be life-threatening.
Anyone can develop HUS, but it is most common in young children. In many cases, HUS is caused by infection with certain strains of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria. The first symptom of this form of Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is several days of diarrhea, which is often but not always bloody.
Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) may also be caused by other infections, certain medications or conditions such as pregnancy, cancer or autoimmune disease. In some cases, HUS is the result of certain genetic mutations. These forms of HUS usually do not cause diarrhea. .
Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is a serious condition. But timely and appropriate treatment usually leads to a full recovery for most people, especially young children.
The signs and symptoms of HUS may vary, depending on the cause. Most cases of HUS are caused by infection with certain strains of E. coli bacteria, which first affect the digestive tract. The initial signs and symptoms of this form of HUS may include:
Diarrhea, which is often bloody
Abdominal pain, cramping or bloating
All forms of HUS — no matter the cause — damage the blood vessels. This damage causes red blood cells to break down (anemia), blood clots to form in the blood vessels and kidney damage. Signs and symptoms of these changes include:
Pale coloring, including loss of pink color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids
Shortness of breath
Easy bruising or unexplained bruises
Unusual bleeding, such as bleeding from the nose and mouth
Decreased urination or blood in the urine
Swelling (edema) of the legs, feet or ankles, and less often in the face, hands, feet or entire body
Confusion, seizures or stroke
High blood pressure
When to see a doctor
See your doctor immediately if you or your child experiences bloody diarrhea or several days of diarrhea followed by:
Decreased urine output
Seek emergency care if you or your child doesn’t urinate for 12 hours or more.