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Vasculitis : Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Vasculitis is an inflammation of the blood vessels that causes changes in the walls of blood vessels. Changes that can occur in the walls of blood vessels include thickening, narrowing, weakening, and the appearance of scars. These changes can inhibit blood flow, and cause damage to the organs and tissues of the body.

This disease, also known as angiitis or arteritis, has several types that are rare. Among the types of vasculitis, some attack only one particular organ, such as the brain, eyes, or skin. However, there are also types that attack many organs at once.

Vasculitis Type

Of the several types of vasculitis, some have mild symptoms and do not require treatment. There are also symptoms that are severe and affect important organs in the body. Symptoms that are felt can also be short (acute) or in the long term (chronic). Some types of vasculitis are:

  • Giant cell arteritis
  • Takayasu Arteritis
  • Cryoglobulinemia
  • Wegener Granulomatosis
  • Henoch-Schonlein purpura
  • Buerger disease
  • Kawasaki disease
  • Microscopic polyangiitis
  • Polyarteritis nodosa
  • Behcet's syndrome
  • Churg-Strauss syndrome
  • Hypersensitive vasculitis

Vasculitis Symptoms

The symptoms of vasculitis are very diverse, associated with reduced blood flow to the body. Vasculitic symptoms that can be felt by sufferers are:

  • Aches
  • Sweating at night
  • The body gets tired easily
  • A rash appears
  • Fever
  • Nervous system disorders, such as numbness
  • Weight loss
  • Headache

Other symptoms associated with more specific types of vasculitis are:

  • Giant cell arteritis - headache, pain in the scalp, jaw pain, and visual disturbances to blindness due to swelling of the arteries in the head.
  • Takayasu Arteritis - joint pain, loss of appetite, fever, high blood pressure, night sweats, visual disturbances, a weak pulse, and headaches.
  • Cryoglobulinemia - rash, joint pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling due to abnormal proteins in the bloodstream.
  • Granulomatosis Wegener - stuffy nose, sinus infection, nosebleeds, and coughing up blood.
  • Henoch-Schonlein purpura - abdominal pain, blood in the urine, joint pain, and rash on the buttocks or lower legs, due to swelling of the capillary arteries in the skin, joints, intestines, and kidneys.
  • Buerger's disease - pain in the area of the hands and feet due to inflammation and blood clots in blood vessels in the area.
  • Kawasaki disease - fever, rash, and eye rash.
  • Microscopic polyangiitis - abdominal pain, rash, fever, muscle aches, and weight loss.
  • Polyarteritis nodosa - rash, pain in muscles and joints, fatigue, abdominal pain after eating, high blood pressure, and kidney disorders.
  • Behcet's syndrome - inflammation of the eyes, mouth and genital ulcers and acne-like lesions on the skin, due to inflammation of the arteries and veins.
  • Churg-Strauss syndrome - nerve pain, skin discoloration, and symptoms such as asthma and allergic rhinitis. This condition is rare.
  • Hypersensitive vasculitis - red spots on the skin, usually appearing on the lower limbs.

Causes of Vasculitis

Most of the causes of vasculitis are unknown. However, there are several types of vasculitis caused by infection, both bacterial, viral and fungal infections, which attack the walls of blood vessels. In some cases, vasculitis can also be caused by an allergic reaction, for example against certain drugs or toxins/poisons. Vasculitis can also be caused by certain conditions, such as blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma.

In systemic vasculitis, an important role is found in the body's immune system. This body's immune system plays an important role in the human immune system, by protecting the body and providing resistance when there is infection or injury.

In vasculitis, triggers that are not known cause the body's immune system to become hyperactive and trigger inflammation in the body's tissues. Inflammation of blood vessels can cause constriction of the arteries. As a result, there is an obstacle to blood flow to the organ or tissue destination.

Vasculitis can be found in humans of different ages, races, and sexes. You can be prone to vasculitis if:

Diagnosis of Vasculitis

Diagnosis of vasculitis is based on a detailed history or medical interview of signs and symptoms experienced, history, physical examination, and investigation. Various investigations may be considered, to help diagnose vasculitis.

These examinations include:

  • Blood tests, to see the presence of blood cells or abnormal antibodies in the body. For example hemoglobin and hematocrit examination, anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), C-Reactive Protein (CRP).
  • Biopsy, taking a small part of the body's tissue to be examined under a microscope. This check can see signs of inflammation or tissue damage.
  • Checking blood pressure, vasculitis can damage the kidneys and cause high blood pressure.
  • Examination of urine analysis.
  • ECG and echocardiography.
  • Chest X-ray examination.
  • Examination of lung function.
  • Ultrasound of the abdomen.
  • MRI, CT scan or angiography.

Treatment of Vasculitis

The handling of vasculitis depends on the results of the diagnosis and affected organs. Vasculitis caused by an allergic reaction generally resolves on its own without requiring treatment. However, if the vasculitis has affected important organs, such as the brain, lungs, or kidneys, medical treatment is very necessary. Among them:

  • Drugs

Medications include corticosteroids, such as prednisone or methylprednisolone. Please note that long-term use of these drugs can cause side effects, such as diabetes and osteoporosis. Use in low doses if you have to take corticosteroids in the long term.

In addition to corticosteroids, there are other drugs that function to suppress the immune system response which triggers damage to blood vessels, such as cyclophosphamide or azathioprine. In addition, biological therapy with rituximab can also be given.

  • Surgery

In some cases, vasculitis can cause aneurysms or swell in blood vessels. Vasculitis can also make the arteries narrow, thus inhibiting blood flow. Patients with both conditions require surgical treatment.

Vasculitis Complications

Complications due to vasculitis depend on the type of vasculitis and the severity experienced. In addition, complications can also occur due to drug side effects for vasculitis. Some of the complications that vasculitis sufferers can experience are:

  • Blood clots and aneurysms. Although rare, vasculitis can cause blood vessels to swell and interfere with blood flow, and clot.
  • Infections that occur, such as pneumonia and sepsis, can be life-threatening.
  • Organ damage. Vasculitis that continues to worsen, can cause damage to important organs in the body.
  • Visual impairment. This complication generally occurs in giant cell arteritis that is not treated.



1. Hasan, U. American College of Rheumatology (2017). Vasculitis.

2. Shiel, W. MedicineNet (2018) Vasculitis Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment and Types.

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Is a health and wellness enthusiast. In him free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.