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Vasculitis

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What is vasculitis?

Vasculitis means inflammation of any of your blood vessels. It can cause a variety of different symptoms and problems. It can be primary, where it occurs on its own, or secondary, where it occurs with another condition. Read more >

What are the symptoms of vasculitis?

The main symptom of vasculitis is inflammation. In many forms of the condition the inflammation is internal and you can’t see it. Because vasculitis takes different forms, the symptoms vary from person to person. Many people with vasculitis feel unwell with fever, sweats, fatigue and weight loss.

Other symptoms vary according to which part of the body is affected, for example:

  • skin – rash of spots that can rupture leaving open sores (ulcers)
  • lungs – coughing or breathlessness
  • nerves – tingling (pins and needles) or weakness in the arms and legs
  • kidneys – problems passing urine or blood in the urine
  • fingers and toes – can turn white or blue, tingle or hurt when exposed to cold conditions
Read more >

What types of vasculitis are there?

Types of primary vasculitis include:

  • Takayasu’s arteritis
  • giant cell arteritis
  • polyarteritis nodosa
  • Kawasaki disease
  • Wegener’s granulomatosis
  • Churg-Strauss syndrome
  • microscopic polyangiitis
  • cryoglobulin-associated vasculitis
  • Henoch–Schönlein purpura
Read more >

Who gets vasculitis?

Vasculitis is quite rare, but the different types tend to affect different age groups. Read more >

What causes vasculitis?

There’s no single cause of vasculitis, and in most cases the exact cause is unknown. It’s thought that most forms of vasculitis are a type of autoimmune disease. Read more >

What is the outlook for vasculitis?

The most severe types of vasculitis can be life-threatening, but most types respond well to treatment, and for many of them you’re likely to make a full recovery. Read more >

How is vasculitis diagnosed?

Vasculitis is diagnosed using blood tests, x-rays or other scans and biopsies (obtaining a tissue sample to look at under the microscope).

What tests are there?

  • blood tests for inflammation, low blood count, kidney and liver function, and immunological blood test for antineutrophil cytomplasmic antibodies (ANCA)
  • urine tests for kidney inflammation
  • x-rays, computerised tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans for chest or sinus problems
  • echocardiogram and electrocardiogram (ECG) to check your heart is healthy
  • biopsies to check if your temporal arteries, liver, kidneys, muscles or lungs are affected
  • ear, nose and throat (ENT) examinations to see if these are affected
  • angiograms to see which blood vessels are involved
Read more >

What treatments are there for vasculitis?

Treatments for vasculitis include:

  • drug treatments, including steroid tablets or injections, immunosuppressive drugs, immunoglobulin injections, antiviral treatments and antibacterial drugs
  • plasma exchange (sometimes called blood washing), which may be needed by a small minority of people with the most severe forms of vasculitis
  • dialysis for severe kidney damage.
Read more >

Self-help and daily living for vasculitis

Try the following self-help tips:

  • Stop smoking.
  • Balance regular exercise with rest.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet, including enough calcium and vitamin D if you’re on steroids.
  • Keep warm (especially if you experience Raynaud’s phenomenon).
  • Understand the treatment you’re on and take the necessary precautions, including immunisations against seasonal flu and pneumonia.
Read more >

Research and new developments for vasculitis

Arthritis Research UK funds a range of research into vasculitis, including studies on treatments and on the causes and frequency of vasculitis. Read more >

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