Vasculitis is the inflammation of the blood vessels that can affect people of all ages. The blood vessels stretch and become weak. They may increase in size or become very narrow. This article provides an insight on its symptoms, causes, and associated treatment.
Vasculitis, is a common banner for a group of diseases that are caused due to the inflammation of the blood vessels; arteries, veins, and capillaries. This disorder affects the working of the vascular system by impairing primary function of the arteries of supplying oxygen rich blood to the tissues of the body, and of the veins of returning deoxygenated blood back to the heart. Angiitis is another term for vasculitis, and is a condition that needs medical intervention. Before we get on to its symptoms, it is imperative to understand its causes.
Why the blood vessels inflame is still under research, but there are a few reasons for them to thicken, weaken, narrow, stretch, close off completely, and/or scar. The foremost cause is the attack by the immune system itself. It is not very clear as to why the immune system would do so, but an infection, immune system diseases, autoimmune disorders, or an allergic reaction mostly work as triggers. Certain cancers that affect the blood cells, such as leukemia and lymphoma, may also cause this condition. Recurring infections somehow trigger an abnormal response in an individual’s immune system, resulting in damage of the blood vessels. It may also be the result of long-term chronic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, etc.
There are many different disorders that are classified under this condition, and they often differ with respect to the organ affected. They are:
- Wegener’s granulomatosis
- Rheumatoid vasculitis
- Giant cell arteritis
- Behcet’s disease
- Churg-Strauss syndrome
- Buerger’s disease
- Kawasaki disease
- Henoch-Schönlein purpura
- Polyarteritis nodosa
- Takayasu’s arteritis
- Central nervous system vasculitis
Symptoms of vasculitis are wide ranging and include a low fever that may or may not escalate, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, fatigue and tiredness, pain in the muscles, and stiffness in joints. In some cases swelling of the arteries and veins can also occur. As blood flow is hampered and in certain cases completely blocked, vasculitis can affect specific organs and body systems, each exhibiting its own symptoms. It may cause severe headaches or a stroke, chest pain, a heart attack, rashes, spots, clusters of small dots, bruises, or hives. In the joints stiffness and pain can be experienced. In some cases, it could lead to joint related conditions, like arthritis. In nerves it causes numbness, tingling, shooting pain, and weakness around the affected part.
To affirm the severity of vasculitis and understand its underlying cause certain tests are recommended like blood or body fluids test, a biopsy of involved organ tissue, x-ray of the affected organ, and an angiogram. Course and duration of the treatment is specific to the infected organ and blood vessels. Treatment aims at reducing inflammation, repairing the damaged or weakened blood vessels, and restoring the health of the infected organ. Cortisone related drugs and/or immunosuppressant drugs are usually prescribed along with specific drugs to treat the affected organ.
If one notices any of the aforementioned symptoms, he/she must seek immediate medical attention; if left untreated, the condition can become very serious.