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What Is Osler’s Disease?

teenager with osler’s disease

The complete name of this condition is Osler-Weber-Rendu disease and it’s a genetic disorder that causes abnormal vein growth. In smaller blood vessels these unhealthy developments are called telangiectases. This is why this condition is also known under the name of Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia (HHT). The sufferer develops red spots on the skin, experiences nosebleeds and many other symptoms that are caused by the dilating capillaries. This syndrome is inherited and on average parents pass the condition to at least one of two children. It’s very rare for the Osler’s disease to skip a generation.

Around three quarters of HHT sufferers experience symptoms by the age of 25, while the rest can develop signs as late as their 50th birthday. The severity of Osler’s disease varies from individual to individual even within the same family. Sadly, until now, no treatment has been found for this illness. However, HHT is not a fatal disorder and there are ways to efficiently manage its effects.

Osler’s Disease Symptoms
Depending on where the blood vessel growth problem occurs, HHT symptoms can manifest themselves in various areas of the patients body. The severity of the abnormalities is also very important. Mild ones could pass unnoticed, while the serious ones lead to hemorrhages, limit the oxygen levels in the blood and lead to more severe health complications like
– Nosebleeds: are the most common symptom for patients suffering from Osler’s disease. They occur since childhood and tend to become more frequent and more severe with ageing.
– Red Spots: are usually the second symptom to set on. They usually occur some years after the first nosebleeds. These capillary bulges are located on the face, lips, mouth, on the fingertips and even in the nose.
– Breathlessness: because abnormal blood vessel growth can also occur in the lungs, one third of Osler-Weber-Rendu syndrome sufferers experience breathing difficulties while practicing physical activities. Some (25%) can even end-up expectorating blood.
– Anemia: patients with HHT can also experience hemorrhage in some area of their digestive tract. Black stools are the sign for this symptom which can lead to anemia in patients above 50 years of age.
– Aneurysms: abnormal blood vessel developments in the brain lead to aneurysms. One in ten Osler’s disease sufferers can experience this side effect. Some end-up to be inoffensive while others can lead to epilepsy, temporarily paralysis or brain damage caused by hemorrhage.

Osler’s Disease Treatment
If you’re experiencing the symptoms described above or some of the early signs of HHT like: fatigue, feeling of dizziness, nosebleeds and have a history of Osler-Weber-Rendu syndrome in your family you should visit a doctor. The diagnose comes after a physical examination and a few blood tests. The doctor will also inquiry about your family’s genetic background.
As mentioned, there is no treatment for Osler’s disease. Your doctor will teach you how to efficiently manage the symptoms. He can prescribe iron supplements to tackle nosebleeds and laser sessions to take care of red spots.
If blood vessel abnormalities are found in the lungs they can be solved with the help of a procedure called ‘catheter embolisation’. Basically, the abnormal blood vessel is short-circuited and blood flow is redirected through healthy normal vessels. Women with HHT history should be tested before remaining pregnant because, during pregnancy vascularization is increased and so is the risk of a bursting capillary, which can cause death to both mother and fetus.


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