What Is Reye's syndrome?
Reye's syndrome is a disease which affects all organs of the body, but most lethally the liver and the brain. Reye's syndrome is a two-phase illness because it is almost always associated with a previous viral infection, such as influenza, cold, or chicken pox. Scientists do know that Reye's syndrome is not contagious and the cause is unknown. Reye's syndrome is often misdiagnosed as encephalitis, meningitis, diabetes, drug overdose, poisoning, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or psychiatric illness.
Reye's syndrome tends to appear with greatest frequency during January, February, and March when influenza is most common. Cases are reported in every month of the year. An epidemic of flu or chicken pox is commonly followed by an increase in the number of cases of Reye's syndrome.
When Reye's syndrome develops, it typically occurs when a person is beginning to recover from a viral illness. Abnormal accumulations of fat begin to develop in the liver and other organs of the body, along with a severe increase of pressure in the brain. Unless diagnosed and treated successfully, death is common, often within a few days. A person's life depends upon early diagnosis. Statistics indicate an excellent chance of recovery when Reye's syndrome is diagnosed and treated in its earliest stages. The later the diagnosis and treatment, the more severely reduced are chances for successful recovery and survival.
Stages of Reye's syndrome:
- Persistent or continuous vomiting
- Signs of brain dysfunction:
- Loss of pep and energy
- Personality changes:
- Aggressive behavior
- Irrational behavior
- Delirium, convulsions, coma
Reye's syndrome should be suspected in a person if this pattern of symptoms appear during, or most commonly, after a viral illness. Not all of the symptoms have to occur, nor do they have to be displayed in this order. Fever is not usually present. Many diseases have symptoms in common. Physicians and medical staff in emergency rooms who have not had experience in treating Reye's syndrome may misdiagnose the disease. The symptoms of Reye's syndrome in infants do not follow a typical pattern. For example, vomiting may be replaced with diarrhea, and they may display irregular breathing.
The treatment of Reye's syndrome varies. Reye's syndrome is an acute, rapidly progressive disease. It should be treated as a medical emergency, and time is of the utmost importance. The chance of recovery is greatly increased when it is treated in its earliest stages. To date there is no cure for the disease. Successful management of the disease depends on early diagnosis. Therapy is primarily directed to protect the brain against irreversible damage by reducing the brain swelling.
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