Reye’s Syndrome; Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Our liver is perhaps one of the most “underrated” organs in our body. While the heart and the brain are thought to be the main vital organs, no human can liver for more than 24 hours without their liver. Its functions include the formation of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats as well as detoxifying our blood and one of the main signs of such negligence is its disregard while choosing our diet and medications. Excessive alcohol consumption and fast food can be lethal to the liver both on the short and long term. In this article, we discuss how some simple carelessness regarding our medications and the ones we give to our children can cause serious diseases.

What is Reye syndrome and how does it happen?

Reye syndrome is an acute condition that affects the liver and consequently other organs in the body. It occurs due to infection with viruses in children and rarely occurs in adults. The main culprit are influenza viruses. Other viruses that can cause the condition can be as mild as common cold and as severe as polio and hepatitis. Some bacteria can also cause it especially salmonella, which is one of the most common bacteria causing food poisoning.

Even though those bacteria and viruses are the main cause of the condition, they affect millions of children each year and further studies have shown that most patients who developed the condition had taken aspirin during their illnesses. Aspirin or acetylsalicylic acid was the most commonly used anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, analgesic, and antiplatelet medication until recently. It has its share of side effects including stomach and kidney problems. However, this close correlation with Reye syndrome has significantly reduced its usage. Other medications have also been shown to cause the condition albeit with a much lesser incidence.

We do not fully know how both of those factors; infectious and medications, cause the condition, but what we know is that the deterioration of the liver is rapid and that the brain is also significantly affected with deterioration of mental functions and even the progression to coma.

Written by Martin Davis