Vasculitis

March 2017


Definition


Vasculitis is a general term that means an inflammation of blood vessel walls. Vasculitis is mainly caused by autoimmune diseases, i.e. diseases caused by the attack of antibodies of specific cells in the body: this is systemic vasculitis. More rarely, they can be the result of an infection or of an unknown cause such as the case of Kawasaki disease, which mainly affects infants. There are different types of vasculitis such as rheumatoid purpura, Wegener's granulomatosis, Churg-Strauss syndrome, etc.

Symptoms


The symptoms are highly variable depending on the type of affected blood vessels and the location of these vessels. Symptoms include:
  • fever;
  • skin lesions, of the purpura type, mainly in the lower limbs in rheumatoid purpura (small bright red spots, signs of a leaking of blood vessels under the skin);
  • muscle pain;
  • digestive disorders;
  • joint pain;
  • disorders of the urinary tract with renal impairment;
  • respiratory disorders such as asthma in the case of Churg-Strauss syndrome.

All of these signs are not linked and can be found in many other diseases, resulting in a difficulty to make the diagnosis.

Diagnosis


The diagnosis of vasculitis is very difficult. Blood tests can help to suggest the diagnosis and sometimes confirm vasculitis in showing the presence of specific antibodies. A multitude of abnormalities are possible and will guide a doctor to diagnose either one type of vasculitis or the other. The diagnosis is also often made when a particular organ is affected and later analyzed.

Treatment


In general, drugs with cortisone and its derivatives are prescribed to stop the inflammation. Immunosuppressants can sometimes be used to inhibit the defective immune system.

Related

Original article published by . Translated by Jeff.
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