Vasculitis is a group of rare diseases that cause inflammation in blood vessels. Inflammation in blood vessels can lead to damage to internal organs and even loss of life. Organs commonly affected by vasculitis include the eyes, nose, skin, lungs, kidneys, and nerves. Although there are currently no cures for vasculitis, it is a treatable disease and there have been tremendous advances in treatment options over the last 50 years. Early detection and initiation of treatment in a timely manner is essential for a good outcome, so there is a need to promote awareness about vasculitis in the medical community and the general public.
There are many different types of vasculitis, all of which are considered autoimmune diseases. While some forms are due to infection or are associated with other diseases, the causes of most types of vasculitis are unknown.
The diagnosis of vasculitis is based on a combination of symptoms, laboratory tests, imaging, and biopsies of affected tissue. The specific tests used in diagnosis are dependent on the type of blood vessels and organs involved. Possible tests that your doctor may order includes a laboratory test called anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA), which can be present in some forms of vasculitis. You may undergo radiology tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), CT scans, and angiograms. In some cases, doctors obtain tissue biopsies to see if there is evidence of inflammation within blood vessels.
Most forms of vasculitis are treated with glucocorticosteroids (“steroids”) and many require treatment with other drugs as well, including drugs used to suppress the immune system (“immunosuppressive agents”).
For more general information about vasculitis, please visit the VCRC FAQ.