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Henoch-Schönlein's purpura in adults versus children/adolescents: A comparative study.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the possible differences in etiological and clinical factors between children/adolescents (< or = 20 years) and adults (> 20 years) with Henoch-Schonlein purpura (HSP).

METHODS: A retrospective-cum-prospective study of consecutive patients with HSP who presented to our teaching hospital over 5 years. Patients were classified as having HSP according to the criteria proposed by Michel et al and the ACR criteria.

RESULTS: 102 patients (43 of all patients being male and 59 female) were classified as having HSP; 20 of the patients were adults (mean age 32.1 +/- 11.7 years) and 82 were children/adolescents (mean age 6.2 +/- 2.6 years). We were unable to identify any precipitating event in 40% of the adults and 37% of the children/adolescents. The frequency of previous drug treatment and of previous upper respiratory tract infection was similar in both groups. At symptom onset, palpable purpura was the chief clinical manifestation in both groups. However, renal involvement, in all its aspects, was more frequent and severe in adults. Adults also had a higher frequency of diarrhoea (with or without occult blood) and leucocytosis, but a lower frequency of thrombocytosis. The frequency of joint manifestations, nausea, vomiting, malena/hematochezia and intussuseption was equal in both groups. Adults required more aggressive therapy, and had a longer hospital stay (10.2 vs. 4.3 days). The outcome was relatively worse in adults, with complete recovery in 18 adults (90%) compared to 81 children/adolescents (98.8%) after a mean +/- SD follow up of 2.8 +/- 1.7 and 2.4 +/- 1.3 years, respectively.

CONCLUSION: In adulthood, HSP is a more severe clinical syndrome, with a higher frequency of diarrhoea and renal involvement. Adults also require aggressive treatment more frequently and have a longer hospital stay.

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