Vasculitis refers to inflammation in blood vessels. Blood vessels range in size from the large aorta to microscopic capillaries and travel throughout almost every tissue in the body.
As a result, vasculitis presents in many different ways and can cause many different problems.
Vasculitis causes changes in the walls of blood vessels, which leads to thickened walls, narrow vessels and reduced amounts of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the body’s tissues and organs. The disease can affect only one organ such as the skin, or it can involve several. Although our understanding of the mechanisms driving blood vessel inflammation has increased dramatically since the early descriptions of these syndromes more than 100 years ago, the classification of the different vasculitis manifestations remains a debated topic. Some types of vasculitis are related to a person’s genetic makeup. Other types develop from a body’s immune system attacking blood vessel cells by mistake.
Symptoms of Vasculitis
Concern over the possibility of vasculitis is often raised by varying symptoms, the most common being a pattern of ischemic (decreased blood flow) throughout the body. Other vasculitis signs include:
- Aches and pains
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Numbness or weakness in nerves
How is Vasculitis Diagnosed?
Since vasculitis can be an explosive, but self-limited problem or a life-threatening illness, a prompt and accurate diagnosis is critically important. The diagnosis is based on looking at the whole picture, including findings from the history and physical examination, laboratory, imaging, and often biopsy. There is no substitute for an experienced rheumatologist thinking through the process.
Treatment depends on the type and severity of the vasculitis and range from short steroid courses to aggressive and long-term immune suppression. Treatment typically goes through two phases: stopping the inflammation and preventing relapse. Corticosteroid drugs are often used to help control inflammation to the blood vessels. If a patient does not respond to corticosteroids, drugs like cytotoxic or immunosuppressant may be used to kill or decrease the functionality of immune system cells causing the inflammation.
The diagnosis of vasculitis is often a life changing moment and should result in a close working relationship with a doctor familiar with these unusual diseases and the medications required to treat them. At Carolina Arthritis, we want to make sure you understand your condition to the fullest and all possible treatment options. If you or a loved one might be suffering from vasculitis, please contact us today to schedule an appointment.
Jun 1, 2020
Life with arthritis is certainly a struggle, but it’s crucial to find ways to reduce symptoms and keep living life. One way you can help to manage your symptoms is by understanding how things outside of your control can exacerbate arthritis pain. Once you understand it, take the proper action to protect yourself. For many […]Read More »
May 7, 2020
A few weeks ago, the terms “social distancing” and “flattening the curve” meant nothing to most, and now we can’t seem to escape those two little phrases little words. Social distancing and sheltering in place are meant to keep us safe so they are for good reason, but it’s understandable if you’re going a little […]Read More »
May 1, 2020
Not everyone with lupus will have the same experience. However, just about everyone who has lupus will have flare-ups or “flares,” which is when symptoms are more severe than usual. Lupus flares can affect the skin, joints, and overall health. Knowing what triggers flares and understanding early warning signs is key to managing them. It […]Read More »