Vasculitis Print Page

What is Vasculitis?

  • Vasculitis is an umbrella term for a group of diseases which cause inflammation to blood vessels. This inflammation disturbs blood flow through the vessel.

Why does Vasculitis happen?

  • In many cases, vasculitis is an autoimmune disease, meaning the immune system mounts an attack on the blood vessel for no clear reason.
  • In some cases, vasculitis can occur as an abnormal reaction to a medication, infection, or some cancers.

Is there something I could have done to prevent Vasculitis?

  • In most cases not. Because we do not fully understand why vasculitis happens, we do not know if anything could prevent it.

Who gets Vasculitis?

  • Vasculitis is rare, with estimates of 1 in 2000 people having some form of vasculitis. Only 1 in 7000 people will develop some form of vasculitis each year.
  • Vasculitis can occur at any age, although certain types occur more often in different age groups. Overall, vasculitis may be slightly more common in females than males, but depends on the specific form of vasculitis.

What are the different types of Vasculitis?

  • There are many different ways that the types of vasculitis are categorized. One common method is by the size of the blood vessel which is affected. However, keep in mind that blood vessel size does not necessarily reflect the seriousness of the vasculitis itself nor does each type of vasculitis fit perfectly into its given category.
  • Large vessel vasculitis examples: Giant Cell Arteritis, Takayasu’s Arteritis
  • Median Vessel vasculitis examples: Polyarteritis Nodosa, Kawasaki vasculitis
  • Small Vessel Vasculitis: Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (Wegener’s), Microscopic Polyangiitis, Churg-Strauss syndrome, Drug-Induced Vasculitis, Leukocytoclastic vasculitis, Hypersensitivity Vasculitis

What are the symptoms in Vasculitis?

  • Because vasculitis can affect any blood vessel, different types causes a variety of different symptoms. They include but are not limited to:
    • Skin rashes
    • Joint pain and/or swelling
    • Shortness of breath, cough, chest pain
    • Kidney problems
    • Strokes, seizures, changes in strength or sensation
    • Vision or Hearing problems, chronic sinusitis

I have some of the symptoms listed above. Does this mean I have Vasculitis?

  • While it is possible, there are many other conditions which are more common that are associated with one or more of the symptoms or signs listed above.

How is Vasculitis diagnosed then?

  • Vasculitis is diagnosed by a rheumatologist after he/she performs a history and physical examination, and reviews various blood work and imaging studies. It is the right combination of findings from your history,exam and tests which determine if in fact you may have a vasculitis.

I have been diagnosed with Vasculitis? How is it treated?

  • While each person with vasculitis may be treated slightly differently based on the specific vasculitis type and its severity, your rheumatologist will likely consider the following:
  • Because vasculitis is a serious disease, it needs to be treated quickly. Glucocorticoids, also known as steroids, are usually the first step in the treatment of vasculitis.
  • Depending on the type of vasculitis, your rheumatologist may also add a second medication to better control the disease and in the long term be able to reduce the duration and dose of the steroid. Examples of these steroid sparing medications include:, azathioprine (Imuran),methotrexate, mycophenolate mofetil (Cellcept), and cyclophosphamide.
  • In addition to calcium and vitamin D, agents to prevent bone loss such as the bisphosphonates (etidronate, alendronate, risedronate, zolendronate) may be used, especially if you are on steroids at higher dosage for longer periods of time.

What is the prognosis for Vasculitis?

  • The answer depends on the severity of your disease and type of vasculitis you have.
  • For most autoimmune vasculitides, they are not considered to be curable. They can be put in remission, usually remaining on a steroid sparing medication. Some forms of vasculitis remain in remission off medication.
  • For vasculitis caused by another agent (E.g. infection, medication, cancer), treatment of the underlying condition usually also treats and resolves the vasculitis.

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Rheumatologists see over 100 different types of diseases. We are known for seeing arthritis, however, we also see many other conditions.

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