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Rhabdomyolysis - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Updated on March 2, 2015
Rhabdomyolysis can be easily caused by overdoing strenuous exercise
Rhabdomyolysis can be easily caused by overdoing strenuous exercise | Source


Rhabdomyolysis is a condition caused when muscle fibers break down rapidly and produce toxic chemicals that enter the bloodstream. This can be dangerous as some of these substances, especially proteins, can be damaging to the kidneys. When the kidneys filter the blood, the substances from the muscle tissue breakdown can cause renal failure which can be extremely serious and requires immediate medical attention.

This article explores:

  • Causes of rhabdomyolysis
  • Symptoms of rhabdomyolysis
  • Treatment of rhabdomyolysis
  • Recovery from rhabdomyolysis

Bodybuilders can suffer from this condition
Bodybuilders can suffer from this condition | Source

Causes of rhabdomyolysis

There are several factors that can cause this condition:

  • Diseases of the muscular system.
  • Intense straining of the muscles, e.g. after exercise.
  • Crushing injuries, e.g. being trapped underneath a falling object.
  • Physical abuse or violence.
  • Some recreational drugs or prescription drugs, e.g. statins.
  • Overuse of alcohol.
  • Electric shocks, burns and other significant physical trauma.
  • Heat stroke or high body temperature.
  • Other factors.

Symptoms of rhabdomyolysis

The symptoms of this condition vary according to how severe it is and whether it has caused renal failure or not. Symptoms can include:

  • Pain, tenderness and swelling of the muscles.
  • Nausea, vomiting and loss of consciousness.
  • Dark-colored urine.
  • Decreased or absent urine production.

A blood test can definitively diagnose rhabdomyolysis.

There are a variety of ways that rhabdomyolysis can affect someone
There are a variety of ways that rhabdomyolysis can affect someone | Source
People can make a complete recovery; their kidneys will thank them for it
People can make a complete recovery; their kidneys will thank them for it | Source

Treatment of rhabdomyolysis

If a person is suffering from this condition, it is vital that it is diagnosed and treated urgently. Treatment centers on preventing further renal damage, helping renal functions to recover and reducing the impact of shock or other complications on the patient.

Typical treatments include:

  • IV fluids to maintain a regular flow of liquid to the kidneys and renal system, typically between 6 to 12 liters over a 24 hour period.
  • Flushing out of the kidneys to remove the muscle matter and other chemicals.
  • Correction of electrolyte levels and other abnormal chemicals in the blood such as potassium. This can be achieved with a variety of medications including calcium and insulin.
  • Renal replacement therapy such as dialysis.

Recovery from rhabdomyolysis

Providing that the condition is diagnosed early and treatment is started immediately, most patients will make a complete recovery from the condition, so long as renal failure does not occur. If renal failure does occur, this adds significant complications and can reduce the chances of a full recovery and greatly increase recovery times.

Rhabdomyolysis - Muscle Breakdown.

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In closing

Rhabdomyolysis is a serious medical condition. With the proper level of medical care and treatment, patients can make a recovery over a period of one to three months, assuming that renal failure has not occurred. If renal failure has occurred, damage to the kidneys could be permanent, requiring dialysis and other treatment over the long-term.


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