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Reye's Syndrome

Definition

Reye syndrome is a serious but rare condition. It causes a build-up of fat and swelling in most organs. Reye is most harmful to the liver and brain.

It tends to occur during recovery from a viral infection.

Causes    TOP

The cause of Reye syndrome is unknown.

Risk Factors    TOP

Reye syndrome occurs most often in children aged 2-16 years, but it can occur in anyone. Other factors that may increase the chance of Reye syndrome include:

  • Use of aspirin or other salicylates, especially in children during viral illness like the flu or chickenpox
  • Recent viral illness, including:
  • Fatty acid oxidation disorder
  • Exposure to certain toxins

Symptoms    TOP

Symptoms usually occur after a viral illness and may include:

  • Frequent or persistent vomiting
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Personality changes, such as irritability and aggression
  • Confusion
  • Disordered speech
  • Hallucinations
  • Convulsions
  • Rapid or deep breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

Later symptoms may progress to:

  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Inability to breathe without help

Call a doctor right away if you or your child has any of these symptoms, especially after a viral infection.

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:

Spinal Tap–Lumbar Puncture Method

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Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Treatment    TOP

Early diagnosis and treatment are important for a successful recovery.

Treatment is focused on protecting the brain and other organs from damage. Options include:

Medication

Medications may help to:

  • Decrease inflammation
  • Lower pressure of fluid in the brain
  • Prevent seizures
  • Reduce vomiting
  • Reduce blood ammonia levels—may also require dialysis

Glucose and electrolytes will be given by IV.

Monitoring

The brain, heart, and lungs will be carefully monitored. This will help the doctor begin supportive treatments as soon as possible.

Advanced Care    TOP

As the condition progresses, more care may be needed. Some advanced care options include:

  • Mechanical ventilation—to take over breathing
  • Drainage procedure or decompression craniotomy—to reduce pressure in the brain

Prevention    TOP

The exact cause of Reye syndrome is not known, but the following may decrease the risk of Reyes syndrome:

  • Do not give aspirin to children and teens with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving aspirin to a child or teen.
  • Avoid giving children and teens medications that contain salicylates. Examples include Alka-Seltzer, Anacin, Bufferin, and Pepto-Bismol.

RESOURCES:

Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
http://www.healthychildren.org
National Reye's Syndrome Foundation
http://www.reyessyndrome.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca
Alberta Human Services
http://humanservices.alberta.ca

References:

Reye Syndrome. American Liver Foundation website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated January 14, 2015. Accessed June 21, 2016.
Reye syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114525/Reye-syndrome. Updated July 20, 2010. Accessed June 21, 2016.
Reyes syndrome. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed September 25, 2009. Accessed June 21, 2016.
What is Reyes Syndrome? National Reyes Syndrome website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed June 21, 2016.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 5/11/2013

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