Reye Syndrome (cont.)

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What causes Reye's syndrome?

Although there has been extensive research into the cause of Reye's syndrome, it is still not completely understood. As mentioned above, the use of aspirin or aspirin-containing medications to treat children with some viral infections including chickenpox, influenza, and gastroenteritis has been shown to be associated with the development of the disease. Ultimately, the causes of symptoms associated with Reye's syndrome relate to dysfunction of the liver and a resultant increase in serum ammonia levels and other toxins. These toxins cause increased pressure in the brain and swelling, leading to brain dysfunction and can progress to death.

What are risk factors for Reye's syndrome?

Most children diagnosed with Reye's syndrome have a history of a recent viral infection. Chickenpox and influenza are identified most often, though rotavirus (a cause of bowel inflammation or gastroenteritis) has also been described. In addition to the recent viral infection, most have a history of taking aspirin to control fever. Some researchers have suggested that children with undiagnosed metabolic disorders may also be at risk, though this is not completely clear.

What are Reye's syndrome symptoms and signs?

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The primary symptoms of Reye syndrome include uncontrolled vomiting and mental-status changes. These symptoms are generally the result of increased intracranial pressure and brain swelling. If untreated and progressive, the disease is fatal. Even if identified and treated early, some patients will still have progressive disease resulting in death or permanent brain damage.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/28/2016

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Reye's Syndrome - Experience and Concerns Question: Do you avoid taking aspirin and giving it to your children for fear of developing Reye's syndrome? Please share your concerns.
Reye's Syndrome - Signs and Symptoms Question: Have you or your child ever had symptoms similar to Reye's syndrome? What was the diagnosis?
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