Vasculitis is a broad term for conditions that cause inflammation of blood vessels. It is sometimes referred to as angiitis or arteritis. Inflammation can cause the blood vessel walls to thicken, reducing the width of the vessel’s passage. Constricted blood flow can harm tissues and organs. Though certain types of vasculitis may improve without treatment, medication is required to control the inflammation. Early detection and treatment can help in preventing permanent tissue and organ damage. There are numerious types of vasculitis, and many of them are rare. Vasculitis can can be short term or long lasting and may affect just one organ, or several other organs.
What is Vasculitis?
Vasculitis is an inflammatory disease that affects the blood vessels, the tubes that transport blood throughout the body. Vasculitis can affect three different types of blood vessels: arteries, veins, and capillaries.
- Arteries – The arteries transport blood from the heart to the organs and tissues throughout the body.
- Veins – Veins return the blood to the heart.
- Capillaries – Capillaries are tiny blood vessels that connect the arteries and veins and transport oxygen and other materials from the bloodstream to the tissues
When a blood vessel gets inflamed, it might narrow, making blood flow more difficult. Or it could completely close off and obstruct blood flow. It can stretch and weaken to the point of bulging, causing serious internal bleeding if it breaks.
Vasculitis can affect people of all ages. However, particular forms of vasculitis affect people of specific ages more frequently than others. Some types affect blood vessels that connect to or transport blood to specific organs, such as the skin, eyes, or brain. Other types may affect multiple organ systems at the same time. Some of the common types may be moderate and require no treatment. Others may be more serious.
The specific cause of vasculitis is unknown. It could be caused by an infection, an allergic response, medication, or another illness. However, in most cases, it is thought to be caused by an unusual immune system behavior.
The following are examples of possible immune system triggers:
- Infections, such as hepatitis B and C.
- Immune system conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
- Drug reactions.
- Blood cancer.
What are the Symptoms of Vasculitis?
- Loss of appetite.
- Weight reduction.
- Pains and aches.
Vasculitis can also cause specific problems related to the affected areas of the body, such as:
- Brain: Inflammation in the vessels supplying blood to the brain may cause a stroke.
- Heart: If vasculitis affects the heart, it can lead to a heart attack.
- Kidney: Vasculitis of the kidney can cause kidney failure.
- Nerves: Numbness and weakness can result from a lack of blood supply to the nerves. It may also cause abnormal sensations or sensory loss in the nerves.
- Digestive system: Vasculitis of the stomach or intestines can cause pain after eating. It can also lead to the development of ulcers and result in blood in the stool.
- Lungs: When vasculitis affects the lungs, it can cause shortness of breath and even blood while coughing.
- Skin: It can cause skin rashes, lumps, or open sores.
- Ears: Ear vasculitis can cause symptoms, such as dizziness, ringing in the ears, and sudden hearing loss.
- Eyes: Inflammation in the eyes can cause redness, itchiness, or burning. Eye vasculitis can also result in double vision and temporary or permanent blindness in one or both eyes.
- Hands or feet: Numbness or weakness in the hands or feet can be caused by limb vasculitis.
When to Visit the Doctor?
Vasculitis, depending on organ damage, can be fatal. If you notice any of these symptoms or any other unusual signs, see your doctor right away to begin treatment effectively. If your condition worsens, seek emergency medical attention.
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What are the Treatment Options for Vasculitis?
The treatment options for vasculitis are based on the diagnosis and the affected organs. If vasculitis is caused by an allergic reaction, it may resolve on its own without treatment. However, treatment is usually essential to regulate the condition and its symptoms and prevent or reduce the damage caused by vasculitis.
- Corticosteroid: A corticosteroid is the most common medicine prescribed to control the inflammation associated with vasculitis. Its side effects can be severe if taken for an extended period. They may consist of the following:
- Weight gain.
- Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones).
- High blood pressure.
- High blood sugar levels.
- Immune system medications: If steroid therapy is ineffective, a doctor may prescribe cytotoxic medicines, which work by stopping the immune system cells that cause inflammation.
- Chemotherapeutic medicines: Chemotherapeutic medicines used to treat cancer are also prescribed in quantities much lower than those given to cancer patients. The purpose of such chemotherapy is to limit the abnormal immune response that destroys blood vessels.
In addition to corticosteroids, other medications may be prescribed to help manage inflammation and allow the corticosteroid dosage to be reduced more quickly. The medication prescribed is determined by the type of vasculitis you have.
- Surgery: An aneurysm is a bulge or ballooning in the wall of a blood artery caused by vasculitis. This bulge may require surgery to prevent it from rupturing. Surgical treatment might be needed to treat blocked arteries and restore blood flow.
Timely diagnosis, appropriate therapy, and careful follow-ups are important factors in the success of the treatment. The treatment focuses on addressing the inflammation and managing any symptoms that may be causing the vasculitis.
It is critical to be aware of and record any signs and symptoms of vasculitis. Also, tell your doctor about any other health issues you have and the medications you take. Doctors may gradually reduce the dosage of drugs once the illness is under control. You may need to see your doctor regularly to monitor long-term therapy side effects, vasculitis flare-ups, and medication consequences.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
- How is vasculitis diagnosed?
Your doctor will review your medical history and conduct a physical examination. You will be advised to undergo one or more diagnostic tests and procedures to rule out or identify other vasculitis-related disorders. Some of the tests and procedures that may be performed include blood tests, imaging tests, angiography, and biopsy.
- Is vasculitis linked to a shorter lifespan?
This is determined by the type of vasculitis, the severity of the disease, and the damage, if any. The most common cause resulting in a shorter life is kidney failure. Vasculitis, once thought to be a fatal disease, is now adequately treated as a chronic condition.
- Who is at a higher risk of vasculitis?
Although anyone can get vasculitis, certain factors, such as age, gender, family history, medications, lifestyle choices, infections, immune disorders, etc., can increase the risk of specific types of vasculitis in certain individuals.
- What are the different types of vasculitis?
Doctors classify the different forms of vasculitis based on the size and area of the affected blood vessels. The most severe forms of vasculitis involve both tiny and medium-sized arteries.
The different types of vasculitis include Behcet’s disease, Buerger’s disease, Churg-Strauss syndrome, Cryoglobulinemia, Giant cell arteritis, Granulomatosis with polyangiitis, Henoch-Schonlein purpura, Kawasaki disease, and Takayasu’s arteritis.