Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome is failure of the adrenal gland to function as as result of bleeding into the gland.
This condition is caused by severe infection with meningococcus bacteria or other severe infection from bacteria, such as:
Rarely, Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome can be caused by the use of medications that promote blood clotting. Other causes include:
It is deadly if the underlying cause of this syndrome is not treated right away.
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Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.