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Rhabdomyolysis

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Rhabdomyolysis is a serious syndrome due to a direct or indirect muscle injury. It results from the death of muscle fibers and release of their contents into the bloodstream. This can lead to complications such as renal (kidney) failure. This occurs when the kidneys cannot remove waste and concentrated urine. In rare cases, rhabdomyolysis can even cause death. However, prompt treatment often brings a good outcome. Here's what you need to know about rhabdomyolysis.

Rhabdomyolysis Causes

There are many causes of rhabdomyolysis. The most common causes include:

  • The use of alcohol or illegal drugs such as heroine, cocaine or amphetamines
  • Extreme muscle strain, especially in someone who is an untrained athlete. This can happen in elite athletes too, however. And it can be more dangerous if there is more muscle mass to break down.
  • A crush injury such as from an auto accident, fall, or building collapse
  • Long-lasting muscle compression such as that caused by prolonged immobilization after a fall or lying unconscious on a hard surface during illness or while under the influence of alcohol or medication
  • The use of medications such as antipsychotics or statins, especially when given in high doses

Other causes of rhabdomyolysis include:

  • Electrical shock injury, lightning strike, or third-degree burn
  • A very high body temperature (hyperthermia) or heat stroke
  • Seizures
  • A Metabolic disorder such as ketoacidosis
  • Diseases of the muscles (myopathy) such as congenital muscle enzyme deficiency or Duchenne's muscular dystrophy
  • Viral infections such as the flu, HIV, or herpes simplex virus
  • Bacterial infections leading to toxins in tissues or the bloodstream (sepsis)

A previous history of rhabdomyolysis also increases the risk of having rhabdomyolysis once again.

Rhabdomyolysis Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of rhabdomyolysis may be hard to pinpoint. This is largely true because the course of rhabdomyolysis varies, depending on its cause. And, symptoms may occur in one area of the body or affect the whole body. Also, complications may occur in early and later stages.

The following are common signs and symptoms of rhabdomyolysis:

  • Muscle pain, especially in the shoulders, thighs or lower back
  • Muscle weakness or trouble moving arms or legs
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever, rapid heart rate
  • Confusion, dehydration, fever, or lack of consciousness
  • Dark red or brown urine; reduced or no urine output

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