Definition

Henoch-Schonlein purpura (HSP) is inflammation of the blood vessels in the skin and other organs. It results in a specific rash when the skin is involved. The rash looks like bruising or small dots, referred to as purpura.

Causes

HSP is caused by an abnormal reaction of the immune system. It attacks healthy blood vessels. It is not clear why this happens.

The change in the immune system may be triggered by:

  • Bacterial or viral infections—some can be related to an insect bite
  • Certain medicines
  • Recent exposure to certain vaccines

Risk Factors

HSP is most common in children aged 2 to 11 years old, but it can happen at any age. Your chances are higher if you had:

  • An upper respiratory infection such as a cold
  • Exposure to vaccines, chemicals, cold weather, or insect bites

Symptoms

Symptoms may last for 4 to 6 weeks and may include:

  • Skin rash:
    • Reddish-purple spots that can be felt and are not itchy
    • Often appears on the buttocks or legs, may appear on the elbows
    • Red spots of various sizes
    • Bruising, usually below the waist
  • Pain in the joints—usually the knees and ankles
  • Belly pain
  • Blood in the urine
  • Swelling of the ankles
  • Swelling of the scrotum in males
  • Fever
  • Blood in the stool
  • Vomiting

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You may have:

  • A physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Stool sample
  • Skin biopsy from an area of the rash
Skin Biopsy
Skin proceedure
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Treatment

HSP usually gets better on its own. Your doctor may give you medicines if you are having problems. Medicines are used to:

  • Ease joint swelling and pain
  • Treat bacterial infections
  • Change how the immune system works

Prevention

There is no way to prevent HSP since the cause is unknown.

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