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Rhabdomyolysis is a condition in which myoglobin in muscle tissue is released into the bloodstream due to the breakdown of muscle fibers. The myoglobin protein is filtered out of the bloodstream into the kidneys where it can block some structures in the kidney and may lead to acute tubular necrosis and kidney failure. The condition is often brought on by severe trauma (crushing injuries), the overuse of some medications and illicit drugs, or severe muscle usage, as when running a marathon or experiences a seizure. One should drink plenty of fluids after strenuous exercise to avoid this condition.

Symptoms and diagnosis

The most obvious symptom is the presence of an abnormal color in the urine, typically red or dark colored. Other conditions include myalgia, muscle tenderness or stiffness. Less often fatigue and joint pain are noted, with possible unexplained weight gain. Positive tests for urine and serum myoglobin, high potassium levels and very high CPK levels are noted with this disease. Urinalysis may present casts and test positive for hemoglobin. Creatinine levels in both the serum and urine may be altered.

Risk factors

Rhabdomyolysis can be brought on by a variety of conditions. In addtion to severe trauma, the use of illicit drugs such as amphetamines, cocaine, heroin and PCP, as well as the cholesterol-lowering statin drugs (such as Lipitor, Crestor, and so on), can cause rhabdomyolysis. Other causes include alcoholism, heat stroke, ischemia or necrosis of muscles due to arterial occlusion, deep venous thrombosis or other causes such as low phosphate levels or the severe overuse of muscles caused by marathon-running, seizures or shaking chills.