Vasculitis A Comprehensive Overview
Vasculitis is a blanket term
describing a number of disorders characterized by inflammation of one or more blood vessels. It is also
sometimes referred to as angitis.
Any part of the vascular system may be
affected. The Arteries (arteritis), Veins (venulitis), or
Infections of multiple organs present the greatest threats of serious illness or
death. There is a definite concern when single organs like the brain
or eyes are targets.
Further complications can arise
depending on the location of the inflammation. Renal failure is probable
when a kidney is affected, and may lead to dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Inflammation of an aorta leading to
the heart may end in myocardial infarction however less severe cases may
manifest as petechia, miniscule reddish-purple spots on the
skin caused by leaking of a capillary or small blood vessel.
Larger spots are called
purpura. / Vasculitis
may affect the entire body, any of the organs, or a single vessel. Blood vessel inflammation occurs when leaks in
the vascular walls cause the affected area to swell. The inflamed area turns red and is hot and sensitive to the
Antibodies and antigens collect at the inflamed
site and cue the body’s immune system to fight the infection. If they do
not move through the system quickly enough, it is possible for these antibody-antigen complexes to accumulate
along the walls of blood vessels.
The body goes into an autoimmune response and
attacks its own cells along with the foreign invaders. This is believed
by some to cause the inflammation.
The inflamed blood vessels become constricted or completely closed off, inhibiting blood flow
through that vessel.
On very rare occasions, the vessel wall can weaken
and develop a bulge called an aneurysm that may rupture and cause internal
bleeding. An aneurysm may also result in
dissection, or splits along multiple layers of the cell walls.
Either event may be fatal.
Blood vessel inflammation may be the primary feature of a disease, or it may be an
adverse reaction to another event.
Vasculitides refer to diseases that affect different areas of the
body and carry various sets of symptoms. Most vasculitides affect large and medium sized vessels like arteries,
arterioles, veins and venules.
There are approximately 30 known vasculitides.
Some of these rare conditions are
cryoglobulinemia, Henoch-Schonlein purpura, Churg Strauss, giant cell arteritis, polyarteritis nodosa, and central
nervous system vasculitis.
Vascular inflammation may develop as secondary response to bodily injury, allergies,
medications, or infection by other invasive microorganisms.
Sometimes it occurs as an allergic reaction to a
drug used for treating another disease. Vasculitides that develop during autoimmune response most often affect small capillaries, and
sometimes arterioles and venules as well.
Those with compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients,
may be prone to blood vessel inflammation. It
often accompanies conditions such as scleroderma, hepatitis B, systemic sclerosis, and Sjogren’s syndrome,
rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus.
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease marked
by dry mouth and eyes from inflammation of salivary glands and tear ducts.
It is often a complication with both Rheumatoid Arthritis and lupus
Rheumatoid Vasculitis, or RV, primarily attacks the skin and peripheral nervous
Digital ischemia may obstruct blood flow to fingers and toes,
Scleritis, or inflammation of the
white of the eye, is another common RV symptom. Sufferers of systemic lupus erythematosus may also have the oral
and ocular dryness along with problems of the heart, joints and muscles, organs, and connective tissues throughout
Whether inflammation is caused by disease or caused by a failed immune system,
treatments are usually the same. Sometimes the cause remains