Can you die from working out too hard? 5 things to know about rhabdomyolysis

A 17-year-old teen from Texas was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease after hitting the gym too hard.

Jared Shamburger, of Houston, said he first started feeling super sore after lifting weights for 90 minutes at the gym, news station KTRK reported.

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“Everything hurt,” Shamburger said. “It hurt to the touch. It was swollen.”

When the soreness did not go away, his mother researched the symptoms online and contacted a doctor to give her own diagnosis of rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis causes a breakdown of muscle tissue that releases a damaging protein into the bloodstream. The condition, which is caused by injury, infection and strenuous exercise, can cause kidney failure, and if not treated, can lead to death.

Here are five things you need to know about rhabdo:

1. What causes it?

When muscle is damaged, a protein called myoglobin is released into the bloodstream. It is then filtered out of the body by the kidneys. Myoglobin breaks down into substances that can damage kidney cells, according to MedlinePlus. Rhabdomyolysis may be caused by injury or any other condition that damages skeletal muscle.

2. What are some other things that could cause rhabdo?

Problems that lead to rhabdo include: trauma or crush injuries; use of drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines, statins, heroin or PCP; genetic muscle diseases; and extremes of body temperature; low phosphate levels; seizures or muscle tremors; severe dehydration; marathon running or calisthenics.

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3. What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can include: dark urine; general weakness; muscle tenderness; muscle stiffness; decreased urine output. Other symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, seizures and weight gain.

4. How is it diagnosed?

Doctors can give patients a physical exam, which will show tender or damaged skeletal muscles. Other tests include: Creatine kinase level, serum calcium, serum myoglobin, serum myoglobin, serum potassium, urinalysis, and urine myoglobin test.

5. What happens after rhabdo?

The outcome depends on the amount of kidney damage. Acute kidney failure occurs in many people. Getting treated soon after rhabdomyolysis will reduce the risk of permanent kidney damage, according to MedlinePlus.


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