Takayasu's arteritis (tah-kah-YAH-sooz ahr-tuh-RIE-tis) is a rare type of vasculitis, a group of disorders that cause blood vessel inflammation. In Takayasu's arteritis, the inflammation damages the aorta â the large artery that carries blood from your heart to the rest of your body â and its main branches.
The disease can lead to blockages or narrowed arteries (stenosis) or abnormally dilated arteries (aneurysms). Takayasu's arteritis can also lead to arm or chest pain and high blood pressure and eventually to heart failure or stroke.
If you don't have symptoms, you may not need treatment. Or you may need medications to control the inflammation in the arteries and prevent complications. But even with treatment, relapses are common.
The signs and symptoms of Takayasu's arteritis often occur in two stages.
In the first stage, you're likely to feel unwell with:
Not everyone has these early signs and symptoms. It's possible for inflammation to damage arteries for years before you realize something is wrong.
During the second stage, inflammation is causing arteries to narrow so less blood, oxygen and nutrients reach your organs and tissues. Stage 2 signs and symptoms may include:
Seek immediate medical attention for shortness of breath, chest pain or signs of a stroke.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have other signs or symptoms that worry you. Early detection of Takayasu's arteritis is key to getting effective treatment.
If you've already been diagnosed with Takayasu's arteritis, keep in mind that the symptoms of a disease flare (recurrence) are often similar to those that occurred originally. Also pay attention to any new signs or symptoms. These may indicate either a recurrence or a complication of treatment.
With Takayasu's arteritis, the aorta and other major arteries, including those leading to your head and kidneys, become inflamed. Over time the inflammation causes changes in these arteries, including thickening, narrowing and scarring.
No one knows exactly what causes the initial inflammation in Takayasu's arteritis. It's likely that the condition is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks your own arteries by mistake. The disease may be triggered by a virus or other infection.
Your doctor will ask you about your signs and symptoms, conduct a physical exam, and take your medical history. He or she may also have you undergo some of the following tests and procedures to help rule out other conditions that resemble Takayasu's arteritis and to confirm the diagnosis. Some of these tests may also be used to check on your progress during treatment.
Unlike other types of vasculitis, Takayasu's arteritis is not usually diagnosed by the removal and analysis of tissue (biopsy).
With Takayasu's arteritis, extended or recurring cycles of inflammation and healing in the arteries might lead to one or more of the following complications:
A healthy pregnancy is possible for women with Takayasu's arteritis. But the disease and drugs used to treat it can affect your fertility and pregnancy. If you have Takayasu's arteritis and are planning on becoming pregnant, work with your doctor to develop a plan to limit complications of pregnancy before you conceive. And during your pregnancy see your doctor regularly for checkups.
One of the greatest challenges of living with Takayasu's arteritis may be coping with side effects of your medication. The following suggestions may help:
Eat a healthy diet. Eating well can help prevent potential problems that can result from your condition and medications, such as high blood pressure, thinning bones and diabetes. Emphasize fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats and fish, while limiting salt, sugar and alcohol.
If you're taking a corticosteroid drug, ask your doctor if you need to take a vitamin D or calcium supplement.
Takayasu's arteritis primarily affects girls and women between the ages of 10 and 40. The disorder occurs worldwide, but it's most common in Asia. Sometimes the condition runs in families.