Everything You Need to Know about Vasculitis
Vasculitis encompasses a wide variety of related conditions, each with their own causes.
Vasculitis, sometimes known as angiitis or arteritis, is a general term for a group of diseases that cause inflammation in the blood vessels, making it more difficult for blood to flow through the body. Since it’s a relatively rare disorder, public knowledge of it is limited, making it all the harder for patients to recognize their symptoms and find effective treatments for them. For those suffering from this condition or researching on behalf of a loved one or friend, we’ll walk you through its most common causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
Causes and Diagnosis
Vasculitis refers to a wide variety of rare diseases, none of which has a single specific cause. Research suggests that it may be partially determined by hereditary factors. Additionally, vasculitis can be a “side effect” of hepatitis B or autoimmune disorders.
To determine whether a patient has vasculitis, a blood or bodily fluid test is performed to detect inflammation. Organ function tests may then be conducted if the vasculitis is affecting an organ. A diagnosis can be finally established if a biopsy and/or blood vessel X-ray reveals the associated inflammation.
As vasculitis results in an inflammation of the blood vessels, it typically causes changes in their walls and linings, which can lead to fatigue, weight loss, muscle pain, headaches, and more. Symptoms can vary depending on where the disease is concentrated, however; vasculitis in the brain, for example, will have different effects than vasculitis of the lungs or skin. These symptoms can also vary in severity, with some cases leading to organ failure or similarly dire consequences.
Several types of vasculitis can cause tangible physical changes, including red blotches on the skin, lesions, or thick, protruding veins. Some effects, like rashes, may be temporary, but some varieties of vasculitis can be chronic, persisting throughout a person’s life. If the condition is left untreated, the veins may continue to deteriorate, possibly leading to aneurysms or detached blood clots.
Most cases of vasculitis are best treated with medications. Cortisone is generally the most effective, but immunosuppressive drugs such as cyclophosphamide may also be prescribed. If the vasculitis affects internal organs, additional medication specific to those issues may be necessary.
Vasculitis can be a challenge to manage, but with the proper medications, it’s relatively easy to treat. The sooner you receive treatment for vasculitis, the more likely the disease will successfully go into remission. If you think you may be at risk of vasculitis, schedule an appointment with a specialist today to discuss your options.