Rhabdomyolysis is a condition in which the muscles are rapidly broken down resulting in the release of myoglobin — the muscle protein — into the blood. This is a rare condition, and the release of myoglobin into the blood can lead to damage of kidneys. It is mostly caused by muscle injury and trauma. Accumulation of myoglobin in blood blocks the kidney tubules resulting in kidney failure. Kidney damage may also result from retention of fluid from blood and reduction of blood flow to the kidneys. In some very rare cases, rhabdomyolsis is found to lead to death. Immediate medical attention and appropriate treatment is required for successfully controlling the condition.
The causes for rhabdomyolsis include:
- Muscle strain – Severe muscle strain may lead to rhabdomyolysis in both trained and untrained individuals. As the muscle mass of the person increases, the risk of this condition also increases. Marathon runners and weight lifters who push beyond their usual limits are at an increased risk of getting rhabdomyolysis.
- Injuries – Injuries as in accidents and falls may also cause muscle strain and trigger muscle break down.
- Alcohol and drug abuse – Overdose of illegal drugs, like cocaine, and excessive use of alcohol may trigger the breakdown of skeletal muscles resulting in the release of myoglobin into blood stream.
- Muscle compression – Compression of muscles for a long duration as in lying unconscious for a long period of time can result in muscle damage.
- Certain medications – Use of certain drugs like corticosteroids and statins, particularly in higher doses, can lead to this condition. The risk of developing this condition increases with combination of drugs like cyclosporine and gemfibrozil. Creatine supplements and certain nutritional supplements are also linked to a higher risk of this condition.
- Burns and shocks – Third-degree burn and electrical shocks also may lead to muscle break down.
- Heat stroke – Heat stroke may result in muscle damage and then rhabdomyolysis. High fever and body temperature is also another cause of muscle damage.
- Muscular dystrophy – Dystrophy caused by congenital diseases leads to muscle break down.
- Metabolic disorders
- Viral infections like flu and HIV
- The release of myoglobin into the blood can lead to damage of kidneys.
- Accumulation of myoglobin in blood blocks the kidney tubules resulting in kidney failure.
- In rare instances, rhabdomyolsis can lead to death.