Vasculitis – What it is, Causes and Treatments that we should not ignore. Also, Vasculitis is an inflammation of your blood vessels. It causes changes in blood vessel walls , including thickening, weakening, narrowing and scarring. These changes restrict blood flow, resulting in organ and tissue damage. There are many types of Vasculitis , and most of them are rare. Vasculitis can affect just one organ, such as your skin, or it can involve several. The condition can be short-term (acute) or long-lasting (chronic).
Vasculitis can affect anyone , although some types are more common among certain groups. Depending on what type you have, you may get better without treatment. Or you will need medication to control inflammation and prevent flare-ups. Vasculitis is also known as angiitis and arteritis.
Causes of Vasculitis: The exact cause of Vasculitis is not 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:
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- Infections, such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C
- blood cancer
- Immune system diseases , such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and scleroderma
- Reactions to certain drugs
- 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 – and therefore oxygen and vital nutrients – reaching your body’s tissues and organs.
Vasculitis diagnoses : Your doctor will likely start by taking your medical history and performing a physical exam. He or she may put you through one or more diagnostic tests and procedures, such as the following:
- Blood tests: These tests can be used to look for signs of inflammation , such as a high level of C-reactive protein. A complete blood cell count can indicate whether you have enough red blood cells. A blood test that looks for certain antibodies — the anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody test — can be helpful in diagnosing vasculitis .
- Urine tests: These tests can reveal whether your urine contains red blood cells or has too much protein, which could signal a medical problem.
- Imaging tests: Non-invasive imaging techniques can help determine which blood vessels and organs are affected. They can also help the doctor monitor whether you are responding to treatment. Imaging tests for Vasculitis include X-rays, ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET).
- X-rays of your blood vessels (angiography): During this procedure, a flexible, straw-like catheter is inserted into a large artery or vein. A special dye (contrast medium) is then injected into the catheter, and X-rays are taken because the dye fills these arteries or veins. The contours of the blood vessels are visible on the resulting X-rays.
- Biopsy: This is a surgical procedure where your doctor removes a small sample of tissue from the affected area of your body. Your doctor examines this tissue for signs of vasculitis .
Vasculitis Treatments: Your treatment will be focused on controlling inflammation with medications and addressing any underlying disease that triggered your Vasculitis . For your Vasculitis , you can go through two phases of treatment – stopping inflammation and preventing relapse (maintenance therapy).
Both phases involve prescription drugs. Which drugs and how long you need to take them depend on the type of vasculitis , the organs involved, and the severity of your condition.
Some people have initial success with treatment, then experience flare-ups later. Others may never see their Vasculitis go away completely and need ongoing treatment.
Medications used to treat Vasculitis include:
- Corticosteroids to control inflammation . Your doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid medication, such as prednisone or methylprednisolone (Medrol). These help control inflammation in the affected blood vessels . The side effects of corticosteroids can be serious, especially if you take them for a long time. Possible side effects include weight gain, diabetes and bone thinning (osteoporosis). If a corticosteroid is needed for long-term (maintenance) therapy, you will likely receive the lowest possible dose.
- Medications to affect the immune system . If you do not respond to corticosteroids, your doctor may prescribe cytotoxic or immunosuppressive drugs. These types of drugs kill or decrease the function of immune cells causing inflammation . They include azathioprine (Azasan, Imuran), methotrexate (Trexall, Rheumatrex), and cyclophosphamide. Possible side effects of cyclophosphamide include increased risk of cancer, infertility and infection. Therefore, even though this drug is effective in controlling inflammation , it is not always the first choice, especially for long-term therapy.
Rituximab (Rituxan) is a safe and effective option for treating some types of Vasculitis . Rituximab has proven to be a good option for maintenance therapy unless you have had hepatitis B. A side effect of rituximab is an increased risk of hepatitis B reactivation .