Vasculitis: The Dangers, Symptoms, and Treatments

Dec 05, 2018

Vasculitis is a serious inflammatory autoimmune condition that can severely impact your life and health if you have it. The cause for this condition is not well understood, but vasculitis can affect anyone of any age and background.

While vasculitis cannot be cured, you can do some things to manage your condition if you have it. Here is more information about vasculitis, its dangers, symptoms, and treatments so you will be more informed when you talk to your doctor.

Dangers of Vasculitis

Vasculitis involves inflammation of all types of blood vessels from tiny capillaries all the way up to your aorta. This inflammation can cause the blood vessels to severely restrict or close down blood flow and cause tissue damage in the area past where the blood is restricted.

Lack of blood to these areas can result in gangrene, especially in the extremities, and may also result in the need to remove digits or even limbs.

In some cases, the inflammation can also cause pressure to build up and aneurysms to form or blood vessels to burst open. When blood vessels break open in these cases, it can cause internal bleeding inside your organs.

This bleeding could potentially lead a wide variety of issues, including blindness if the blood vessels are in the eye, or blood in the lungs among other complications depending on the affected areas.

Symptoms of Vasculitis

The symptoms of vasculitis depend on which part of the body and which size blood vessels are affected. Vasculitis is often divided into types depending on the area of the body that is affected and other symptoms.

For example, Kawasaki’s disease and Takayasu’s arteritis can affect the arteries around the heart, while Behcet’s disease affects the blood vessels around the whole body, and Buerger’s disease affects the small blood vessels in the hands and feet.

Regardless of the type, if you have vasculitis you’ll likely feel very ill with a fever or headache. You may also feel achy all over and be unintentionally losing weight.

Depending on what kind of vasculitis you have, you could also see signs of abnormal bleeding such as skin discoloration or rashes in the affected area. If your vasculitis is affecting your internal organs, then you may experience abdominal pain or trouble breathing.

Tests for Vasculitis

Common tests for vasculitis include blood tests, including hematocrit and hemoglobin tests, angiography, chest X-ray, and blood pressure measurement. A urinalysis to test for blood and proteins in your urine may also be performed as vasculitis often affects the small blood vessels of the kidneys.

If you’re experiencing gangrene or rashes, then the doctor may need to do a biopsy or sample of the area to rule out other causes. Further testing may also include imaging tests to determine if any of your internal organs are affected.

Treatment for Alleviating Vasculitis

Treatment depends on what part of the body is most affected by the vasculitis and its severity. Most treatments involve reducing blood vessel inflammation. If your vasculitis is caused by allergens, then eliminating or avoiding the allergen may reduce symptoms.

If your case is mild, then the doctor may suggest over-the-counter painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications, along with monitoring your condition. More severe cases may need corticosteroids and even surgery to repair possible aneurysms.

Because vasculitis can cause potentially serious or even deadly issues with your tissues and organs, see a doctor if you suspect you have this condition. With proper monitoring and treatment, you should be able to manage your symptoms so that you can maintain a normal, healthy lifestyle.

The Sarasota Arthritis Center has expert physicians that specialize in all kinds of rheumatology including autoimmune diseases like vasculitis. Call us today for an appointment for a diagnosis.

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