NORD gratefully acknowledges the Platelet Disorder Support Association for assistance in the preparation of this report.
Synonyms of Henoch-Schönlein Purpura
- Allergic Purpura
- Allergic Vasculitis
- Anaphylactoid Purpura
- Hemorrhagic Capillary Toxicosis
- Leukocytoclastic Vasculitis
- Nonthrombocytopenic Idiopathic Purpura
- Peliosis Rheumatica
- Rheumatic Purpura
- Schonlein-Henoch Purpura
- vascular purpura
Subdivisions of Henoch-Schönlein Purpura
- Henoch's Purpura
- Schonlein's Purpura
Henoch-Schönlein purpura (HSP) is a rare inflammatory disease of the small blood vessels (capillaries) and is usually a self-limited disease. It is the most common form of childhood vascular inflammation (vasculitis) and results in inflammatory changes in the small blood vessels. The symptoms of HSP usually begin suddenly and may include headache, fever, loss of appetite, cramping, abdominal pain, painful menstruation, hives, bloody diarrhea, and joint pain. Red or purple spots typically appear on the skin (petechiae). Inflammatory changes associated with HSP can also develop in the joints, kidneys, digestive system, and, in rare cases, the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).
In one form of the disorder, termed Schönlein’s purpura, the skin and joints are affected but the gastrointestinal tract is not. In another form, known as Henoch’s purpura, affected individuals have purplish spots on the skin and acute abdominal problems, such as glomerulonephritis (a type of kidney disorder). People with Henoch’s purpura are not affected by joint disease.
The exact cause of HSP is not fully understood, although research demonstrates that it is related to an abnormal response by the immune system or, in some rare cases, an extreme allergic reaction to certain offending substances (e.g., foods or drugs).
Signs & Symptoms
The symptoms of HSP usually begin suddenly. In addition to the characteristic red spotting of the skin (most often on the buttocks and backs of the legs), they may include headache, loss of appetite, and/or fever. The skin typically becomes red (diffuse erythema). Cramping abdominal pain may occur and is usually most severe during the night. Blood may be present in the stool and abnormal bleeding (hemorrhaging) from the gastrointestinal tract can cause bloody diarrhea. Joint pain (arthralgia) may develop in any joint of the body, especially the knees and ankles. Some people with HSP experience vomiting and diarrhea; others may have severe constipation and unusually dark stool (melena).
Individuals with HSP typically develop small red or purple spots (petechiae) on the skin, especially on the legs. These purpura spots are caused by small hemorrhages under the skin and are not associated with abnormally low levels of platelets (nonthrombocytopenic) as is common with some other forms of purpura. Other skin lesions associated with HSP include large hives (urticarial wheals) or ulcers (necrotic), especially on the buttocks and legs. Swelling may occur in the face and neck due to abnormal fluid accumulation in the soft tissues of these areas (angioneurotic edema). In rare cases, swelling and edema in the throat can cause breathing difficulties that can lead to life-threatening respiratory problems.
Between one-quarter and one-half of people with HSP have problems with kidney function, such as glomerulonephritis, in which the portion of the kidney that separates waste from the blood is damaged. Blood in the urine (hematuria) and inflammatory changes in the kidneys may also develop. Some people may develop severe kidney disease, including IgG nephropathy, chronic inflammation of the kidneys (nephritis), and/or nephrotic syndrome leading to kidney failure.
In rare cases, a portion of the affected person’s bowel or intestine may fold in upon itself (intussusception). This can result in substantial pain and, if conservative measures do not resolve the problem, surgery may be required.
When the central nervous system is involved, individuals with this disorder may experience severe headaches, perceptual changes, convulsions, visual difficulties (optic atrophy), and/or seizures.
The exact cause of HSP is not known, although research suggests that this disease may be caused by immune system dysfunction (i.e., increased IgA immune complexes). Autoimmune disorders are caused when the body’s natural defenses against “foreign” or invading organisms (e.g., antibodies) begin to attack healthy tissue for unknown reasons.
In some cases, it has been suggested that this disorder may be an extreme allergic reaction to certain foods, such as chocolate, milk, eggs, or beans. Various drugs (e.g., nifedipine, diltiazem, cefuroxime, diclofenac, etc.), bacteria (e.g., Streptococcus), and insect bites have also been indicated as possible causes in some cases. Rubella precedes the first symptoms of HSP in about 30 percent of cases. In about 66 percent of cases, an upper respiratory infection precedes the onset of symptoms by about 1 to 3 weeks. A definite link to viral infections has not been proven.
HSP is a rare disorder that affects more males than females. The disease may occur in all age groups, although it most commonly affects children.
In children, the initial symptoms typically begin after the age of 2 years and usually last for about 4 weeks and the disease usually has a somewhat mild course. About 50 percent of affected children experience one or more recurrences, usually within months. The rate of recurrence seems to be higher among those children whose initial disease was more severe.
Most affected children have been between 2 and 11 years of age. In the USA, about 14 cases occur per 100,000 school-aged children. It is generally a benign (non-threatening) disorder appears in most instances to cure itself (self-limiting).
Common purpura is the most prevalent type of purpura, occurring most often in women over age 50. When there has been no injury, purpura lesions occur more often than subcutaneous bleeding. However, following surgery or even minor injuries, blood vessel fragility results in excessive bleeding. The bleeding may be reduced by short-term corticosteroid therapy and/or, in postmenopausal women, the administration of estrogen.
Scurvy, a type of purpura, results from a deficiency of vitamin C in the diet. Symptoms may include experience generalized weakness, anemia, spongy gums, and a tendency to bleed (hemorrhage) under the skin (subcutaneous) and from the delicate mucous membranes that line the mouth and the gastrointestinal tract. Scurvy rarely occurs in modern civilizations due to improvement of diet and availability of foods that contain Vitamin C.
Gardener-Diamond syndrome (Autoerytrocyte Sensitization) is a rare disorder that is sometimes called painful bruising syndrome. It is characterized by purpura spots, mainly in young women. Gardener-Diamond syndrome is thought to be an autoimmune disorder.
Vasculitis (angiitis) is a vascular inflammatory disease that may occur alone or in association with other allergic or rheumatic diseases. Inflammation of the vascular walls constricts the blood vessels and may cause a lack of blood supply to certain areas of the body (ischemia), tissue loss (necrosis), and/or blood clots (thrombosis). Any size vessel or any part of the vascular system may be affected, and symptoms are relative to the system involved. Symptoms may include fever, headache, profound loss of appetite, weight loss, weakness, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and/or muscle and joint pain. Since there are many forms of Vasculitis, there are many causes. Some types may be caused by allergic reactions or hypersensitivity to certain medications such as sulfur drugs, penicillin, propylthiouracil, other drugs, toxins, and other inhaled environmental irritants. Other forms may occur because of a fungal infection, parasites or viral infections, while in some cases there may be no apparent cause. (For more information on this disorder, choose “Vasculitis” as your search term in the Rare Disease Database.)
Cutaneous necrotizing vasculitis is a relatively common inflammatory disease of the blood vessels, including the veins, arteries, and smaller blood vessels (capillaries). This disorder typically affects the skin and may occur alone or in conjunction with allergic, infectious, or rheumatic diseases. Symptoms may include skin nodules, small hemorrhages under the skin, and/or skin lesions that may be red and flat (macules). These may develop on many parts of the body, especially the back, hands, buttocks, and/or legs. In some cases, hives that are intensely itchy (urticaria) or ring-shaped ulcers may also be present. Fever, generalized discomfort (malaise), and/or muscle or joint pain may also occur. The exact cause of cutaneous necrotizing vasculitis is unknown. Some lesions may be caused by an allergic reaction or hypersensitivity to certain medications such as sulfa or penicillin, other drugs, toxins, and inhaled environmental irritants.
Kawasaki disease is an inflammatory disease of childhood characterized by fever, skin rashs, swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy), inflammation of the arteries (polyarteritis), and inflammation of blood vessels (vasculitis). Inflammatory changes cause destructive lesions in the blood vessels that can lead to complications involving the liver, gall bladder, and heart. The symptoms may include an abnormally high fever that begins suddenly and lasts for approximately two weeks. Other symptoms may include redness in the lining of the eyelids of both eyes (bilateral conjunctivitis), irritability, fatigue, redness (inflammation) of the mouth and tongue (stomatitis), cracking of the lips, swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck (cervical adenopathy), and/or skin rashs. The exact cause of Kawasaki disease is not fully understood. It may be related to two previously unknown strains of staphylococcus and streptococcus bacteria and/or a possible immunological abnormality. (For more information on this disorder, choose “Kawasaki” as your search term in the Rare Disease Database.)
Immune thrombocytopenia is a rare platelet disorder characterized by unexplained low levels of platelets in the circulating blood. Symptoms may include nosebleeds (epistaxis), small red or purple spots on the skin that represent small hemorrhages under the skin (petechiae), and/or bleeding from the rectum and/or urinary tract. Anemia may follow and produce weakness and fatigue. Other people with this disorder may experience episodes of elevated fever and abnormal enlargement of the spleen. No specific cause for Immune thrombocyopenia has been identified. Current evidence supports an immunologic basis, since most patients have antiplatelet antibodies that are identifiable. (For more information on this disorder, choose “Immune Thrombocytopenia” as your search term in the Rare Disease Database.)
Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) is a rare blood disease characterized by abnormally low levels of circulating platelets in the blood, abnormal destruction of red blood cells, kidney dysfunction, and disturbances of the nervous system. Symptoms of this disorder, which begin suddenly, may include fever, headache, purpura spots on the skin and mucous membranes, joint pain (arthralgias), partial loss of feeling in the arms or legs (paresis), changes in mental status, and/or seizures. The exact cause of TTP is not known. It may be due to an infectious agent or to an autoimmune reaction. (For more information on this disorder, choose “Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia Purpura” as your search term in the Rare Disease Database.)
The diagnosis of HSP may be difficult, especially in adults. The disease is frequently confused with other forms of vascular inflammation (see Related Disorders section of this report). Routine laboratory tests are usually not definitive for the disorder. The platelet count is typically normal although white blood cell and sedimentation rates may be elevated.
The disorder is diagnosed by a combination of the presence of skin lesions and/or joint tenderness, combined with a confirmed test for blood in the urine (urinalysis), and a skin biopsy that shows inflammation of the arterial and venous capillaries.
If individuals are thought to have HSP as the result of an allergic reaction, they must strictly avoid the offending substance (e.g., food or drug). When evidence of streptococcal infection is present, antibiotic therapy is prescribed. Mild childhood cases of the disease often improve spontaneously with advancing age. There is no specific treatment, however, in most patients, the disease has a limited course and the outlook for recovery is good.
If non-steroid anti-inflammatories fail to relieve symptoms, some patients may be treated with glucocorticoids (steroid) drugs such as prednisone. These drugs may be useful to help control acute abdominal and joint pain. In some cases, swelling of soft tissues (angioedema) may be helped with steroid drugs. Dapsone may be prescribed when prednisone is contra-indicated or fails to relieve symptoms. The use of steroids to treat this disorder remains a matter of controversy in the medical literature. Some research indicates that steroids do not shorten the length of the illness or reduce the frequency or recurrence of symptoms. Other studies indicate that early steroid treatment may help to reduce the risk of kidney damage.
Patients with HSP who have advanced kidney disease and renal failure will probably benefit from mechanical cleansing of the waste products from the blood (hemodialysis). Aggressive and supportive care may be necessary during acute kidney crisis. Some patients with severe kidney disease have undergone kidney transplantation. However, the disease can recur in the transplanted kidney. Other treatment is symptomatic and supportive.
Information on current clinical trials is posted on the Internet at www.clinicaltrials.gov. All studies receiving U.S. government funding, and some supported by private industry, are posted on this government web site.
For information about clinical trials being conducted at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, MD, contact the NIH Patient Recruitment Office:
Tollfree: (800) 411-1222
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Experimental treatment with a combination drug therapy of anticoagulants (i.e., heparin and acenocoumarol), corticosteroids, and immunosuppressants has been tested on adults with severe cases of HSP. Further studies are needed to determine the long-term safety and effectiveness of this form of therapy for the treatment of this disorder.
Plasmapheresis as a means of removing unwanted substances (toxins, metabolic substances, and plasma parts) from the blood has also been tried experimentally. Blood is removed from the patient, and blood cells are separated from plasma. The patient’s plasma is then replaced with other human plasma and the blood is transfused back into the patient. This therapy is still under investigation to analyze side effects and effectiveness. More research is needed before plasmapheresis can be recommended for use in all but the most severe cases of HSP.
Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) has been used on an experimental basis to treat some children with severe abdominal pain associated with HSP. Further research is needed to determine the long-term safety and effectiveness of immunoglobulins for the treatment of this disorder.
NORD Member Organizations
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Saulsbury FT. Henoch-Schönlein Purpura. In: NORD Guide to Rare Disorders. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Philadelphia, PA. 2003.
Ballinger S. Henoch-Schönlein Purpura. Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2003;15:591-94.
Crowson AN, Mihm MC Jr, Magro CM. Cutaneous vasculitis: a review. J Cutan Pathol. 2003;30:161-73.
Ozen S. The spectrum of vasculitis in children. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2002;16:411-25.
Nadeau SE. Neurologic manifestations of systemic vasculitis. Neurol Clin. 2002;20:123-50.
Davin JC, Weening JJ. Henoch-Schönlein Purpura nephritis: an update. Eur J Pediatr. 2001;160:689-95.
Rostoker G. Schönlein-henoch purpura in children and adults: diagnosis, pathophysiology and management. Biodrugs. 2001;15:99-138.
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Is Henoch Schonlein Purpura serious? ›
The most serious complication of Henoch-Schonlein purpura is kidney damage. This risk is greater in adults than in children. Occasionally the damage is severe enough that dialysis or a kidney transplant is needed.Is HSP a lifelong condition? ›
In most children, the symptoms and signs of HSP go away within one month, though some children will have problems for three months or even longer. The purpura on the skin disappears – and usually does not leave any scars – and the joint pain and tummy pain go away. This is called remission.Is HSP an autoimmune disease? ›
HSP is an autoimmune disease that is often triggered by an upper respiratory infection. Symptoms include a rash caused by bleeding under the skin, arthritis, belly pain, and kidney disease. Most children recover fully.What does HSP rash look like? ›
The rash usually appears in all patients with HSP. The initial appearance may resemble hives, with small red spots or bumps on the lower legs, buttocks, knees, and elbows. But these change to appear more like bruises. The rash usually affects both sides of the body equally and does not turn pale on pressing.What drugs cause HSP? ›
Propylthiouracil is the most common drug-causing vasculitis. Other drugs implicated are vancomycin, minocycline, adalimumab, rituximab, and clozapine.What is the fastest way to cure purpura? ›
- Corticosteroids. Your doctor may start you on a corticosteroid medication, which can help increase your platelet count by decreasing the activity of your immune system. ...
- Intravenous immunoglobulin. ...
- Other drug therapies. ...
HSP has previously been reported following immunization with various vaccines, mostly within 12 weeks post vaccination . The aim of this report is to highlight a possible association between COVID-19 vaccination (Pfizer‐BioNTech BNT16B2b2 mRNA vaccine) and first onset of HSP in a previously well adult.How can you catch HSP? ›
We do not know exactly what causes HSP, but it seems to follow on from some viral or bacterial infections such as a cold or respiratory tract infection. HSP is not an inherited disease and is not contagious. It is named after the doctors who first described the disease and is often referred to as HSP for short.What is HSP mental illness? ›
A highly sensitive person is someone who is greatly affected by social stimuli, such as other people's voices and facial expressions. Psychologist Elaine Aron developed the concept of highly sensitive persons (HSPs) to describe those who display notable sensitivity to various forms of stimuli.How do you know if purpura is serious? ›
Patients who experience purpura with any of the following symptoms should seek medical treatment: low platelet count, which may lead to increased bleeding after an injury, bleeding gums or nose, or blood in urine or bowel movements. sore, swollen joints, particularly in the ankles and knees.
Can HSP affect the heart? ›
It is important to note that, while cardiac complications are rarely considered in HSP, there have been approximately 20 published cases of HSP with non-coronary artery cardiac involvement. Interestingly, not all patients had cardiac symptoms, and patients with HSP-related cardiac involvement are generally adults.How long can HSP last? ›
How long does Henoch-Schonlein purpura last? The illness lasts 4 to 6 weeks in most children. The rash (purpura) changes from red to purple, becomes rust-coloured and then fades completely. About 3 in 10 children with HSP can get it again, usually within 4 months of the first illness.Is HSP a personality type? ›
HSP isn't a disorder or a condition, but rather a personality trait that's also known as sensory-processing sensitivity (SPS).Is Henoch Schonlein Purpura hereditary? ›
However, while genes may increase the risk of developing the disease (and in some cases more than one family member has HSP), the disease itself is not inherited.Can HSP cause kidney damage? ›
Most people recover fully from HSP without complications, but in time it can lead to chronic kidney disease and kidney failure.Where does HSP come from? ›
The cause of HSP is unknown, but it is most commonly triggered by a viral illness (e.g. a cold), and it occurs most often in the spring. HSP usually affects children from two to 10 years of age, but it can happen in anyone. HSP itself is not contagious, but the infection that has triggered HSP may be contagious.Does HSP go away? ›
For about two-thirds of children, all symptoms will be gone in two to four weeks. For the last one-third of children, symptoms are gone in one to three months. Serious complications of HSP are rare, but it is very important to follow up with your child's doctor.What does purpura rash look like? ›
Purpura is small, flat spots on your skin. They look red or purple on lighter skin tones but appear brown or black on darker skin tones. Purpura is commonly referred to as a blood spot under your skin. Purpura usually consists of smaller dots that cluster in a specific area but may appear as one larger patch.What vitamins help with purpura? ›
Studies have also shown that vitamin C supplementation improved purpura in patients who had a prior vitamin C deficiency. If you have purpura and are bothered by the appearance of them there are a few things that may help the lesions fade more quickly.Can low b12 cause purpura? ›
Severe vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to pseudothrombotic microangiopathy, which can present similarly to the microangiopathic hemolytic anemias, particularly thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) and disseminated intravascular coagulation.
Can purpura be caused by stress? ›
Psychogenic purpura (also referred to as Gardner-Diamond syndrome, autoerythrocyte sensitization, or painful bruising syndrome) is a rare and poorly understood clinical presentation in which patients develop unexplained painful bruises, mostly on the extremities and/or face, during times of stress.How do you know if purpura is serious? ›
Patients who experience purpura with any of the following symptoms should seek medical treatment: low platelet count, which may lead to increased bleeding after an injury, bleeding gums or nose, or blood in urine or bowel movements. sore, swollen joints, particularly in the ankles and knees.Is Henoch-Schonlein purpura curable? ›
Henoch-Schonlein purpura usually goes away on its own within a month with no lasting ill effects. Rest, plenty of fluids and over-the-counter pain relievers may help with symptoms.Is purpura an emergency? ›
Purpura fulminans is a rare, life-threatening disease state, classically defined as a cutaneous marker of disseminated intravascular coagulation, which can be present in both infective and non-infective disease states .Can HSP go away on its own? ›
HSP usually gets better on its own without causing lasting problems. You can give your child pain relief (e.g. paracetamol) or an anti-inflammatory pain reliever (e.g. ibuprofen) to help relieve the joint pain and general discomfort. See our fact sheet Pain relief for children.What does vasculitis look like on legs? ›
Common vasculitis skin lesions are: red or purple dots (petechiae), usually most numerous on the legs. larger spots, about the size of the end of a finger (purpura), some of which look like large bruises. Less common vasculitis lesions are hives, an itchy lumpy rash and painful or tender lumps.What kind of doctor do you see for purpura? ›
Generally, haematologists are the specialists that treat purpura.Can purpura be caused by stress? ›
Psychogenic purpura (also referred to as Gardner-Diamond syndrome, autoerythrocyte sensitization, or painful bruising syndrome) is a rare and poorly understood clinical presentation in which patients develop unexplained painful bruises, mostly on the extremities and/or face, during times of stress.Can Covid vaccine trigger HSP? ›
HSP has previously been reported following immunization with various vaccines, mostly within 12 weeks post vaccination . The aim of this report is to highlight a possible association between COVID-19 vaccination (Pfizer‐BioNTech BNT16B2b2 mRNA vaccine) and first onset of HSP in a previously well adult.Should a child with HSP go to school? ›
Some children experience joint or abdominal pain intense enough to require admission to the hospital. In the first weeks of HSP, activities may be limited by joint or abdominal pain. Once these symptoms improve, children can go back to enjoying school and the activities that they love.
How long does it take to recover from HSP? ›
For about two-thirds of children, all symptoms will be gone in two to four weeks. For the last one-third of children, symptoms are gone in one to three months. Serious complications of HSP are rare, but it is very important to follow up with your child's doctor.What is the most common cause of purpura? ›
There are three main causes of purpura: Disorders of platelets, disorders of coagulation and vasculitis. These are not mutually exclusive, he explains, because if platelets and the factors involved in coagulation have been destroyed or incapacitated, coagulation is disrupted.How do you get purpura? ›
Platelets (thrombocytes ) are cells in your blood that cause clots and prevent excessive bleeding. A condition called thrombocytopenia causes low platelets. It causes bruising, bleeding into tissues, and slow blood clotting. Thrombocytopenic purpura is caused by low platelet counts.Where do you get purpura? ›
Purpura is purple-colored spots and patches that occur on the skin, and in mucus membranes, including the lining of the mouth. Henoch-Schonlein purpura is more commonly seen in children than adults and often occurs after an upper respiratory infection.Can HSP affect the heart? ›
It is important to note that, while cardiac complications are rarely considered in HSP, there have been approximately 20 published cases of HSP with non-coronary artery cardiac involvement. Interestingly, not all patients had cardiac symptoms, and patients with HSP-related cardiac involvement are generally adults.Is Henoch Schonlein Purpura hereditary? ›
However, while genes may increase the risk of developing the disease (and in some cases more than one family member has HSP), the disease itself is not inherited.Is HSP a personality type? ›
HSP isn't a disorder or a condition, but rather a personality trait that's also known as sensory-processing sensitivity (SPS).