Vasculitis is inflammation of your blood vessels. It causes changes in the blood vessel walls, including thickening, weakening, narrowing or scarring. These changes can restrict blood flow, resulting in organ and tissue damage.
There are many types of vasculitis, and most of them are rare. Vasculitis might affect just one organ, or several. The condition can be short term (acute) or long lasting (chronic).
Vasculitis can affect anyone, though some types are more common among certain groups. Depending on the type you have, you may improve without treatment. Some types require medications to control the inflammation and prevent flare-ups.
Vasculitis is also known as angiitis and arteritis.
The signs and symptoms of vasculitis vary greatly. They're often related to decreased blood flow throughout the body.
General signs and symptoms of vasculitis include:
Other signs and symptoms are related only to certain types of vasculitis. The symptoms can develop early and rapidly or in later stages of the disease.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you. Some types of vasculitis can worsen quickly, so early diagnosis is key to getting effective treatment.
The exact cause of vasculitis isn't fully understood. Some types are related to a person's genetic makeup. Others result from the immune system attacking blood vessel cells by mistake. Possible triggers for this immune system reaction include:
Blood vessels affected by vasculitis may bleed or become inflamed. Inflammation can cause the layers of the blood vessel wall to thicken. This narrows the blood vessels, reducing the amount of blood â and therefore oxygen and vital nutrients â that reaches your body's tissues and organs.
Your doctor likely will start by taking your medical history and performing a physical exam. He or she may have you undergo one or more diagnostic tests and procedures to either rule out other conditions that mimic vasculitis or diagnose vasculitis. Tests and procedures might include:
Vasculitis complications depend on the type and severity of your condition. Or they may be related to side effects of the prescription medications you use to treat the condition. Complications of vasculitis include:
One of your greatest challenges of living with vasculitis may be coping with side effects of your medication. The following suggestions may help:
Vasculitis can occur in any sex or race or at any age. But some factors can increase the risk, such as: