Vasculitis causes the immune system to attack blood vessels. It causes changes in the blood vessel walls, including scarring, narrowing, weakening or thickening. There are many types of vasculitis and they may vary greatly in duration, severity and symptoms.
Types & Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of vasculitis vary and can range from mild to life-threatening. They develop early and rapidly or in later stages of the disease. Below are the signs and symptoms for specific types of vasculitis:
- Behcet’s (beh-CHETS) disease: Causes inflammation of your arteries and veins. Signs and symptoms include mouth and genital ulcers, eye inflammation and acne-like skin lesions.
- Buerger’s disease: Causes inflammation and clots in the blood vessels of your hands and feet. Rarely, this disease can affect blood vessels in the abdomen, brain and heart.
- Eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis: A rare condition that mainly affects the lungs, skin, kidneys, heart. Signs and symptoms include adult-onset asthma, rash, nerve pain and sinusitis.
- Cryoglobulinemia: Results from abnormal proteins in the blood. Signs and symptoms include rash, joint pain, weakens, and numbness or tingling.
- Giant cell arteritis: This condition is an inflammation of the temporal artery. Signs and symptoms include headaches, scalp tenderness, jaw pain, blurred or double vision, and even blindness.
- Granulomatosis with polyangiitis: Causes inflammation of the blood vessels in your nose, sinuses, throat, lungs and kidneys. Signs and symptoms include shortness of breath, chronic sinusitis, nosebleeds, and possibly coughing up blood.
- Henoch-Schonlein purpura (IgA vasculitis): More common in children than adults. Causes inflammation of the smallest blood vessels of your skin, joints, bowel and kidneys. Signs and symptoms include abdominal pain, blood in the urine, joint pain, and a rash on your buttocks or lower legs.
- Hypersensitivity vasculitis: Also called allergic vasculitis. Signs and symptoms include red spots on your skin, usually on your lower legs, which can be triggered by an infection or an adverse reaction to medicine.
- Kawasaki disease: Also called mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome. Affects children younger than age 5. Signs and symptoms include fever, rash, cracked lips, swollen lymph nodes or tongue, and redness of the eyes.
- Microscopic polyangiitis: Affects small blood vessels, usually in the kidneys, lungs or nerves. Signs and symptoms include pain and a rash, fever, muscle pain and weight loss. You may cough up blood if the lungs are affected.
- Polyarteritis nodosa: Affects the kidneys, digestive tract, nerves and skin. Signs and symptoms include a rash, general malaise, weight loss, muscle and joint pain, abdominal pain after eating, high blood pressure, muscle pain and kidney problems.
- Takayasu’s (tah-kah-YAH-sooz) arteritis: Affects the larger arteries in the body including the aorta. Signs and symptoms include joint pain, loss of pulse, high blood pressure, night sweats, fever, general malaise, appetite loss, headaches and visual changes.
The exact cause of vasculitis is not fully understood. However, genetic factors, reactions to medicines, chronic infections, including with hepatitis C or hepatitis B Virus and certain blood cancers such as leukaemia and lymphoma can cause vasculitis.
The main goal of treating vasculitis is to reduce inflammation in the affected blood vessels. Rheumatologists direct the care of patients, particularly those with chronic or severe disease. People who have severe vasculitis are treated with prescription medicine such as corticosteroids and other immunosuppressive medications.
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