Diagnosis

Your doctor will be able to diagnose the condition as Henoch-Schonlein purpura if the classic rash, joint pain and digestive tract symptoms are present. If one of these signs and symptoms is missing, your doctor may suggest one or more of the following tests.

Lab tests

No single laboratory test can confirm Henoch-Schonlein purpura, but certain tests can help rule out other diseases and make a diagnosis of Henoch-Schonlein seem likely. They may include:

  • Blood tests. Your blood may be tested if your diagnosis isn't clear based on your signs and symptoms.
  • Urine tests. Your urine may be tested for evidence of blood, protein or other abnormalities to determine if your kidneys are still working properly.

Biopsies

People who have Henoch-Schonlein purpura often have deposits of a certain protein, IgA (immunoglobulin A), on the affected organ. Your doctor may take a small sample of skin so that it can be tested in a lab. In cases of severe kidney involvement, your doctor may suggest a kidney biopsy to help guide treatment decisions.

Imaging tests

Your doctor may recommend an ultrasound to rule out other causes of abdominal pain and to check for possible complications, such as a bowel obstruction.

Treatment

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.

Medications

Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, may help shorten the time and intensity of joint and abdominal pain. Because these drugs can have serious side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of using them with your doctor.

Surgery

If a section of the bowel has folded in on itself or ruptured, surgery may be needed.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Home care focuses on keeping people with mild Henoch-Schonlein purpura comfortable while the disease runs its course. Rest, plenty of fluids and over-the-counter pain relievers may help.

Preparing for your appointment

You'll likely first see your family doctor or your child's pediatrician for this condition. You may later be referred to a kidney specialist (nephrologist) if kidney complications develop. Here's some information that may help you get ready for your appointment.

What you can do

Before your appointment, write answers to the following questions:

  • When did the symptoms begin?
  • Did they come on suddenly or gradually?
  • Was the person with the rash (you or your child) sick before the rash started?
  • What medications and supplements does the person with the rash take regularly?

Questions you may want to ask your doctor include:

  • What might be causing these symptoms?
  • What tests are needed to confirm the diagnosis?
  • Is this condition temporary or chronic?
  • How will I know if there's kidney damage? What if it turns up later?
  • How is Henoch-Schonlein purpura treated?
  • What are the side effects of treatment?
  • Do you have any literature on this condition? Can you recommend a website where I can learn more?

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask a number of questions, such as:

  • What did the rash look like when it first started?
  • Is the rash painful? Does it itch?
  • Does the person with the rash have other symptoms, such as stomach pain or joint aches?