Takayasu’s Arteritis

What is Takayasu’s Arteritis?

Takayasu’s Arteritis, also known as the “Pulseless Disease” is a rare form of vasculitis affecting medium and large sized blood vessels, primarily the aorta (the main blood vessel that leaves the heart) and its large branches going to the arms, abdominal organs, legs and the head.  As with other forms of vasculitis, inflammation of the large blood vessels may cause segments of vessels to weaken and stretch, resulting in an aneurysm (weakening of the vessel wall).  More commonly, the inflammation of the vessel wall leads to thickening and subsequent partial blockage (stenosis) or complete blockage (occlusion) of the artery.  These blockages can result in the surrounding tissues being deprived of an adequate blood supply which causes mild to very severe problems including claudication (cramping) in the arms and legs, kidney damage with severe hypertension, strokes, or heart attacks.  Many other symptoms and problems can be seen in Takayasu’s Arteritis including joint pains, fevers, fatigue, and others.

Who gets Takayasu’s Arteritis?

Takayasu’s arteritis generally first presents in people when they are young (teens, 20s or 30s), is much more common in women than men, and is more common in Asian countries.  However, the disease is seen in people from all over the world.

What causes Takayasu’s Arteritis?

The cause of Takayasu’s arteritis is unknown.

How is Takayasu’s Arteritis diagnosed?

The diagnosis is based on a combination of symptoms and laboratory tests.  These usually include angiography, a study of the blood flow in arteries.  The angiogram can be done with dye injected into the arteries, by MRI, or by CT scan.  The study shows the characteristic changes of blockage and widening of the arteries affected by Takayasu’s.  Physical examination of patients with Takayasu’s often demonstrates reduced blood pressure readings in the arms  and reduced pulses in the arms and feet.

How is Takayasu’s Arteritis treated?

Treatment almost always involves use of prednisone in high doses that are slowly reduced over many months.  Often an immunosuppressive drug is added to the prednisone.  If diagnosed early, treatment can bring about early remission and prevent organ failure.  Unfortunately, while remission is usually achieved, relapses occur frequently and Takayasus’ arteritis is often a chronic problem.

Note: This content has been adapted from the VCRC website