What is Vasculitis?
Vasculitis is a group of uncommon disorder of the blood vessels marked by inflammation involving both the arteries and veins. The condition of vasculitis can either be a primary disease or secondary to underlying medical condition.
Vasculitis can affect people from any group age level although there are certain types of the disorder that can mainly affect certain age group. The main involvement in this disorder is the blood vessel which generally is divided into arteries, veins and capillaries.
Arteries function in transporting oxygenated blood from the lungs away from the heart and other organs while the veins transport unoxygenated blood from other organs of the body to the heart to be pumped back to the lungs to receive oxygen. Capillaries on the other hand are very small blood vessels where exchange of oxygen and waste product of blood vessel and tissue occurs.
There are various types of vasculitis and are classified among the size of the blood vessel affected, location and cause. The most commonly use to classify the type of vasculitis affecting the patient is according to the size of the blood vessel and the location vasculitis. The form of vasculitis may come and defined as large size, medium size and small size vascultis.
Large size vascultis basically affects the large blood vessels with type of this include:
Bechet’s syndrome – manifests with triad of mouth ulcers, eye inflammation and genital ulcers. This syndrome affects large arteries and veins with age of onset usually in 20s or 30s and frequent incidence is more in Eastern Mediterranean and Asia. The cause is believed to be genetic or inherited and environmental factors while this disorder is not contagious.
Takayasu’s arteritis – chronic inflammation involving the largest arteries in the body and aorta whit incidence more common in young women aged 10 and 30 years. It is marked by absence of pulse with pain and coldness of the extremities.
Polymyalgia rheumatic – is a common disorder to people aged 50 years and above marked by localized pain and stiffness in the shoulders and hips and is often associated with Giant cell arteritis.
Temporal arteritis – is a form of vasculitis that is most commonly affecting people aged 50 years and above. It is an inflammation of the large blood vessels that involves the large arteries in the head bringing damage to the large blood vessels supplying the head area including the neck.
Medium size vasculitis composed of the following types:
Polyarteritis nodosa – affects both the medium sized and small sized blood vessels that involve many different organs of the body. It is a rare autoimmune disease marked by spontaneous inflammation of the arteries. The disease manifests with purpura, abdominal pain, muscle and joint pain, skin ulcers and kidney problems.
Cutaneous vasculitis – is a form of vasculitis marked by palpable purpura as the inflammation involves the blood vessels in the skin while purpura in vasculitis usually develops on the lower limbs.
Buerger’s disease – is also known as Thromboangiitis obliterans and is a rare form of vasculitis that affects the hands and feet of the patient. It commonly affects men between the age of 20 and 40 years who are heavy smokers. The blood vessels in the hands and feet of the patient in this type of vasculitis are totally blocked or tightened as a result of decreased blood flow.
Kawasaki disease – is an autoimmune disease that affects children below 5 years of age. It involves the lymph nodes, mouth and skin with an early onset of high grade fever.
Small sized vasculitis includes:
Microscopic polyangiitis – is a form of vasculitis that affects small size blood vessels of the kidney, lungs and skin. The onset is marked by sudden weight loss that is not intended, skin lesions, fever and glumerulonephritis.
Wegener’s granulomatosis – is a vasculitis involving the nose, throat, sinuses, kidney and lungs. The onset manifests through nasal stuffiness, bleeding of the nose and chronic infection of the sinus.
Churg-Strauss syndrome – is a type of vasculitis often associated with asthma and involves small blood vessels of the lungs, abdomen, skin and nerves. This form of vasculitis is common in patient with history of asthma and allergies.
Henoch-Schonlein purpura – is a vasculitis that usually affects children but can also affect people of any age. The onset is marked by purpura in the buttocks associated with joint pains, blood in urine and abdominal pain.
The symptom of vasculitis depends on the type or form the patient is suffering from although general signs and symptoms include:
- Unintentional weight loss
- Numbness and weakness
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Decreased or loss of appetite
There has been no definite cause of vasculitis although it is believed to have risen from an abnormality in the immune system with common feature of blood vessel inflammation. The etiology however is classified in two and such are:
Primary vasculitis is an inflammation of the blood vessels with no known cause or associated with any underlying medical condition that can trigger the inflammation.
Secondary vasculitis has risen from an underlying condition such as infection, allergic reactions, immune system abnormality and cancers of the blood cells.
Treating vasculitis will depend on the type and severity of the disease although the goal of treatment is towards inhibiting and reducing inflammation and suppressing the immune system.
Steroids are prescribed for controlling the inflammation of the blood vessels. Doses of corticosteroid drugs are administered such as prednisone and methylpredisolone. Prolonged exposure to steroid treatment however, can lead to side effects such as bone thinning and weight gain.
Cytotoxic drugs such as azathioprine, cyclophosphamide and methotrexate are prescribed for severe vasculitis and when corticosteroid treatments did not respond well to treat and control blood vessel inflammation. It is a drug treatment use for suppressing the immune system that causes the inflammation.
Surgery may be required to remove the abnormal bulge formed in the wall of the blood vessels as a result of vasculitis condition to some patient and not all patient may require this treatment.
Pictures collection of Vasculitis….