Vasculitis: Treatment, symptoms, causes, and types

Vasculitis refers to a large group of diseases that cause inflammation of the blood vessels.

The specific blood vessels affected include arteries, veins, and the tiniest of these known as capillaries. It can affect different parts of the body, leading to a wide range of symptoms.

Fast facts on vasculitis

Vasculitis can have a large number of different forms.

Symptoms of vasculitis can include fever, tiredness, and joint pain.

Central nervous system vasculitis can cause mental changes and seizures.

Vasculitis has a number of potential causes including infections and immunologic diseases.

Treatment for vasculitis often includes steroids.

What is vasculitis?

[Blood supply neck and shoulder]
Vasculitis can damage specific organs by reducing oxygen supply.

Vasculitis means and inflammation of the blood vessels. It can affect different parts of the body, and the impact and symptoms will depend on which part is affected.

Vasculitis is also called angiitis and arteritis. It causes alterations in the walls of blood vessels, which may include scarring, weakening, narrowing, and thickening.

Vasculitis can be acute and short-term or chronic and long-term. In some cases the organs in the body may be affected, especially if they do not receive enough nutrient and oxygen-rich blood, resulting in organ damage, and sometimes death.

Treatment

Treatment for vasculitis depends on several factors, including what type of vasculitis the person has, the severity of their symptoms, their age, and their general health.

Sometimes, as may be the case with Henoch-Schonlein purpura, the condition clears up without medical treatment.

Listed here are some of the most commonly used medications for vasculitis:

Steroids

These are used to reduce inflammation. Examples include prednisone or methylprednisolone (Medrol). Side effects may be severe if taken over the long-term. They may include:

weight gain

diabetes

osteoporosis (thinning of the bones)

Immune system medications

If a person does not respond well to steroid therapy, a doctor may prescribe cytotoxic drugs that stop the immune system cells that cause inflammation.

Examples include:

azathioprine (Imuran)

cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan)

[Blood supply to the brain]
Central nervous system vasculitis can induce mental changes.

This is vasculitis that involves the brain and spinal cord. Signs and symptoms may include:

mental changes

headaches

general confusion

paralysis or muscle weakness

visual problems

dysphasia, coma

seizures

depression

myelopathy, which is a disorder of the spinal cord

Churg-Strauss syndrome

This rare syndrome is an inflammation of small arteries and veins in people with a history of allergy or asthma.

Its main feature is asthma, which may begin long before the onset of vasculitis. Early signs and symptoms may include:

allergic rhinitis

nasal polyps

In the next phase, the person typically has eosinophilia, a condition when there are too many eosinophils, a type of white blood cell.

The third phase is a vasculitis usually involving the skin, lungs, nerves, kidneys, and other organs.

There is frequent devastation of the nerves, called mononeuritis multiplex, which causes severe tingling, numbness, muscle wasting in hands and feet, and shooting pains.

Cryoglobulinemia

This condition is linked to hepatitis C infections. It causes the blood to become abnormally thick with inflammation of blood vessels.

Symptoms vary according to the type and which organs are affected. Typically, signs and symptoms include:

breathing problems

fatigue

glomerulonephritis affecting the kidneys

joint pain

muscle pain

purpura, or purple spots and patches on the skin, organs, and mucous membranes

fingers, toes, hands, and feet turning white in the cold

skin ulceration

Giant cell arteritis

This is inflammation of the walls of the arteries. The most common symptoms are:

headache

shoulder pain

pain in the hips

pain in the jaw after chewing

fever

blurred vision

Less common symptoms include:

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