Vasculitis is an inflammatory disease that affects your blood vessels, arteries, veins and capillaries. It forms changes in the walls of the blood vessels which restrict blood flow and ultimately lead to damage of the tissue and organs.
Vasculitis is a rare disease which can affect people of all age groups. Different forms of vasculitis target different body parts : Behcet’s disease- this targets the veins and arteries showing common signs of eye inflammation, mouth ulcer and skin lesion; Buerger’s disease- this causes inflammation and clotting in the blood vessel of your hands and feet leading to ulcer; Churg- Strauss Syndrome- this rare condition shows symptoms of asthma, nasal allergy and pain in the nerve. It mainly targets lungs, kidney, heart and nerves; Kawasaki disease- this is again a rare condition mainly seen among children, and it affects the lymph nodes, blood vessel walls and coronary arteries; Giant Cell Arteritis- also known as temporal arteritis, this type causes inflammation of the arteries in your head. The common symptoms include headache, vision problem or blindness, jaw pain etc; Hypersensitivity Vasculitis- this usually occurs as a result of infection or medicinal side effects. It causes rashes and red spots on your skin and legs.
Diagnosis of vasculitis treatment depends upon the condition and extent of its infection. A person showing symptoms of vasculitis are recommended to go for a biopsy. An alternative option can be angiogram.
Treatment of vasculitis depends on the severity and involvement of the organs affected. In certain cases where the condition has only affected your skin, treating the underlying infection may be enough. In other cases where the infection may spread or affect other body organs, usage of particular drugs like Cytoxan, Prednisone is essential. If vasculitis poses serious threat to your blood vessels, steroid tablets are recommended to the patient. Immunosuppressive agents are also effective to reduce the strength of body’s immune system. In some cases a combination of steroids and immunosuppressive agents are prescribed in stages: In order to keep the condition in check drugs like Cyclophosphamide is used. This helps in weakening the immune system which attacks blood vessels.
Steroids like azathioprine, methotrexate or mycophenolate are given to the patient. In case of an infection or relapse of polyangiitis or granulomatosis, anti-bacterial drugs such as co-trimoxazole are prescribed. They provide protection from unexpected infections that may result from over usage of immunosuppressive agents.
People suffering from Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C infection, blood cancer, rheumatoid arthritis or those who have a genetic disorder are prone to vasculitis. Although common to all age groups, people above the age of 50 are more likely to get affected by Giant cell arteritis. Asian women are prone to Takayasu arteritis which affects larger arteries like aorta. Children below 5 years of age often get affected by Kawasaki vasculitis.
There is no particular restriction to people having a possibility of vasculitis. Anybody who does not show necessary symptoms is not eligible for the treatment. In case of headache or skin rashes, one must consult the doctor as it may not necessarily indicate vasculitis.
Vasculitis may have quite a few side effects depending on the type and dosage of prescribed medicine and drugs:
Some forms of vasculitis may leave your organs damaged. Blood clot in the blood vessel obstructs the flow of blood. In rare cases vasculitis weakens the blood vessel resulting in aneurysm. Vasculitis may lead to pneumonia and infection like sepsis. Long-term use of drugs like Cytoxan may cause damage to the bone marrow and bladder leading to cancer.
There is no fixed post treatment guideline as such. However, for a vasculitis patient, it is important to follow a healthy diet plan that will help in fighting the side effects. During this course one must avoid smoking as it may increase the chances of complication.
The patient is advised to follow up with the doctor after the treatment, and continue to take all the medicines as per instructions.
Most forms of vasculitis can be treated if diagnosed at the early stage before it causes damage to any of the organs. For instance, IgA vasculitis is caused by medication and is often curable on its own. Buerger’s vasculitis is strongly related to cigarette smoking and depends on smoking cessation.
Other forms of vasculitis are mostly curable, but may recur in some patients. People may experience symptoms of vasculitis at a later stage in life. In order to avoid meeting these symptoms the person is advised to follow healthy and anti-inflammatory diet, and stay physically active.