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Hyaline Membrane Disease In Infants

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Hyaline membrane disease is the old name for the condition that is currently known as respiratory distress syndrome in infants (RDS). If your doctor diagnoses your baby’s disease as:

• neonatal respiratory distress syndrome
• infant respiratory distress syndrome

it means the baby is ailing with hyaline membrane disease. This disease generally affects babies born earlier than the 28 to 32 weeks of gestation or premature babies.

With this disease, the alveoli (or small air sacs at the end of bronchioles in the lungs) are lined with dead cells and proteins thus making gas exchange in the lungs difficult. The hyaline membrane begins to take on a glassy appearance. The cause of the hyaline membrane disease (HMD) is the deficiency of a molecule called surfactant, which triggers the process of dead cell deposition on alveoli. In some cases, the structural flaw of the lungs also aggravates the condition.

What happens is that the surfactant, which is a mix of lipoproteins and phospholipids, is secreted to the lung tissues to reduce the surface tension in the air passages and help the alveoli open for gas exchange. If there is not enough of this surfactant, then the alveoli are forced to close and collapse with each exhalation. As this happens, affected and destroyed cells (the hyaline cells) gather in the airways and cause more obstruction. It must be noted that the weak or ill-formed ribs of the preterm baby aggravate the situation causing deep retractions, insufficient inhalation and sometimes eventual collapse of the lungs where a ventilator is required to do the breathing for the baby.

There are times when HMD condition though present, is not apparent in preterms and may be asymptomatic to start with. However, most who suffer from it exhibit the following symptoms, which heighten three days after birth:

• labored breathing
• rapid breathing (tachypnea)
• grunting
• signs of insetting lung collapse (atelectasis)
• flaring nostrils
• blue coloring of skin due to inadequate oxygen levels in the blood
• chest retractions

Statistics show that hyaline membrane disease affects approximately one percent of all newborn infants and is the leading cause of death among preterm births (Source: Rodriguez RJ, Martin RJ, and Fanaroff, AA. Respiratory distress syndrome and its management. Fanaroff and Martin (eds.) Neonatal-perinatal medicine: Diseases of the fetus and infant; 7th ed. (2002):1001-1011. St. Louis: Mosby). It is cited that the occurrence of RDS reduces dramatically as the fetus age increases from 50 percent in babies of 26 to 28 weeks in the womb to approximately 25 percent at 30 to 32 weeks.

High risk groups are thus:
• The low birth weight preterm or premature babies
• An elder child who suffered HMD
• Cesarean section deliveries
• Infant boys
• Multiple birth babies (twins, triplets, quadruplets, etc.)
• Babies with prenatal infections
• Infants with prenatal asphyxia (pre-birth suffocation)
• Infants with patent ductus arteriosus
• Infants whose mothers are diabetic
• Infants who surfactant release mechanism has been distrurbed.

In my next post, I will cover which tests help diagnose the hyaline membrane disease and what treatment options are available to parents for their infants suffering from the condition as well as possible complications and long term implications of HMD.

Mamta Singh is a published author of the books Migraines for the Informed Woman (Publisher: Rupa & Co.) and the upcoming Rev Up Your Life! (Publisher: Hay House India). She is also a seasoned business, creative and academic writer. She is a certified fitness instructor, personal trainer & sports nutritionist through IFA, Florida USA. Mamta is an NCFE-certified Holistic Health Therapist SAC Dip U.K. She is the lead writer and holds Expert Author status in many well-received health, fitness and nutrition sites. She runs her own popular blogs on migraines in women and holistic health. Mamta holds a double Master's Degree in Commerce and Business. She is a registered practitioner with the UN recognised Art of Living Foundation. Link: http://www.migrainingjenny.wordpress.com and http://www.footstrike.wordpress.com

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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