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Vasculitis Information Sheet

  • Vasculitis is a term given to a group of conditions where there is inflammation in blood vessels and tissues of important organs of the body.
  • The immune system is malfunctioning and hyperactive and starts attacking healthy body tissues to cause inflammation.
  • There are different types of Vasculitis such as Giant cell arteritis, Wegener’s granulomatosis, Churg Strauss Vasculitis, Behcet’s disease, Polyarteritis Nodosa, etc.
  • Each of the different Vasculitis syndromes may present in a different way depending on the type of blood vessel affected (large, medium or small sized vessel).
  • Patients may have symptoms of joint pains, skin rashes, oral ulcers, cough, headaches, numbness of hands or feet or muscle weakness, blood in urine, blood in sputum or hearing loss.
  • Giant cell arteritis can present with headaches, visual disturbances, loss of vision, arthralgias and anemia.
  • Wegener’s granulomatosis can present with respiratory symptoms like sinusitis, cough, blood in sputum or hearing loss or arthralgias or blood in urine.
  • Sometimes the patient can develop gangrene of their fingers or toes where the digit may turn black due to lack of blood supply.
  • Your Rheumatologist will ask you questions regarding your illness, perform a physical examination and order investigations to arrive at a diagnosis. A few special tests may also be needed to confirm your diagnosis of Vasculitis and these may include a biopsy of the affected organ or tissue or an angiogram to evaluate your arteries.
  • Your Rheumatologist will discuss the best treatment options available and tailor the therapy according to your illness. Medications used in the treatment may include tablets, injections or special biologic medications.
  • The course of Vasculitis can be difficult to predict but certain types of Vasculitis respond to treatment very well and can be controlled adequately. Most forms of Vasculitis are treatable but you will need close supervision and monitoring fro your treatment to be successful.
  • Learning strategies to cope with your pain and symptoms, balancing your activities and rest periods and eating a healthy balanced diet are also essential. Feel free to discuss your difficulties with your Rheumatologist and seek help when needed.
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