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Teen Hospitalized With Life-Threatening Illness After 'Too Much' Workout: What Is Rhabdomyolysis?

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A Texas teen was hospitalized after working out “too much.” Can intense exercise really cause rhabdomyolysis?

Texas Teen’s Ordeal

Seventeen-year-old Jared Shamburger’s ordeal began after a workout with his father and brother who have apparently been exercising for years. However, Jared experienced extreme soreness and swelling. Although such soreness is normal for people who work out, Jared’s pain did not seem to go away and was painful to the touch.

It was his mother who searched for the possible cause of his symptoms online and called his doctor, believing that her son has rhabdomyolysis or “rhabdo.” True enough, Jared was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis and was hospitalized for five days.

He is expected to make a full recovery.

What Is Rhabdomyolysis?

Rhabdomyolysis is a condition that happens as a result of skeletal muscle injury. When such an injury happens, the injured muscle cells leak out myoglobin into the bloodstream and potentially cause kidney failure as myoglobin is toxic to the kidney. It may also cause dehydration when electrolytes shift from the bloodstream and into the damaged muscle, as well as spontaneous bleeding when small blood clots begin to form in the blood vessels.

Some of the most severe and life-threatening complications of rhabdomyolysis include kidney failure in which a patient may be required to have dialysis, heart rhythm disturbances as a result of elevated potassium levels in the bloodstream, and even sudden cardiac death as a result of ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation.

Causes And Symptoms Of Rhabdomyolysis

In the case of Shamburger, excessive weight lifting caused his skeletal muscle damage and eventual rhabdomyolysis, but it may also be caused by genetic muscle conditions, extreme body temperatures, crush injuries, seizures, severe dehydration, getting hit by lightning, snake bites, blocked blood vessels, third-degree burns, intense shivering, infections, certain cholesterol-lowering drugs, and use of drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and amphetamines.

Some of its symptoms may include having a dark red urine or decreased urine output, muscle stiffness or tenderness, general weakness, fatigue, seizures, joint pain, and even unintentional weight gain.

The outcome of the patient after diagnosis often depends on the amount of kidney damage at the time of the diagnosis. In many cases, it is immediately recognized by health care providers, as it often comes with a major medical event such as trauma, injury, and illness. That said, it’s important to seek medical attention when the muscle pain and dark urine begin to occur.

Many who are diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis experience acute kidney failure but could get back to their normal activities within a month after proper treatment. However, in patients with more severe cases, they may continue to experience muscle pain and fatigue.

Preventing Rhabdomyolysis

To prevent rhabdomyolysis, it’s important to stay hydrated when engaging in strenuous exercise and to remove extra clothing and immerse the body in cold water in case of possible heatstroke.

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