Henoch-Schonlein purpura (HSP) is the most common form of blood vessel inflammation (vasculitis) in children. The disease affects the small blood vessels in the skin, joints, intestines, and kidneys. It is typically seen in children between the ages of 2 and 6 years. The cause of HSP is not known, but it is believed to be the result of an overreaction by the body’s immune system. Experts believe bacteria, viruses, medications, food, and immunizations may all be triggers for HSP. About 50% of cases occur after a child has an upper respiratory infection (cold).
The hallmark sign of HSP is a red or purple rash (purpura) that typically shows up on the legs or buttocks. The rash is the result of inflammation of the blood vessels under the skin. Other signs and symptoms of HSP may include joint pain, abdominal pain, or blood in the urine due to inflammation in the kidneys. In rare cases, serious complications can occur. These may include permanent kidney damage or folding of the intestines. Diagnosis of HSP is based on the combination of symptoms identified by the physician through a physical exam as well as a blood test to look for immune markers. A collection of affected tissue (biopsy) may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. HSP usually resolves in a few weeks with only minor treatment, including bed rest and fluids. Joint or abdominal pain can be treated with pain medications. Additional treatment options may be provided to those with serious complications of HSP. If your child has been diagnosed with HSP, talk with your doctor to discuss current treatment recommendations. Support groups are a good resource for additional information.