Friday, April 2, 2010

Vasculitis - General Information

First, I want to begin by saying I am not an expert in Vasculitis or any of the other topics I will discuss over the next month. I am a Wegener’s Granulomatosis patient. Much of the information I will be providing I have obtained with extensive research for my own benefit, as well as information I have received from my doctors. The Vasculitis Foundation was and still is a main source for much of my research. I strongly suggest visiting that site for much more in depth information that is presented in an clear and understandable manner.

I cannot, therefore, give advice, except to say that I strongly urge you to seek medical care as soon as possible if you or someone you care about has symptoms which might indicate any of the Vasculitis diseases. Believe me, waiting or pretending it’s not there won’t make it go away and could make it much worse.

Vasculitis is a family of 15 auto-immune diseases, whose main characteristic is inflammation of blood vessels.

What is an auto-immune disease? It’s a disease in which the immune system mistakes the body’s own cells for a foreign body or invader and attacks those cells. Most people have heard of Lupus and/or Rheumatoid Arthritis, which are both autoimmune diseases, but few people (that I have spoken with) have heard of Vasculitis.

I was going to list each Vasculitis disease along with its identifying symptoms, but I assume you want to finish this sometime today. The names of the diseases are: Behcet’s disease, Buerger’s Disease, Central Nervous System Vasculitis, Churg-Strauss Syndrome, Cryoglobulinemia, Giant Cell Arteritis, Henoch-Schönlein purpura, Hypersensitivity vasculitis, Kawasaki disease, Microscopic Polyangiitis, Polyarteritis nodosa, Polymyalgia rhematica, Rheumatoid vasculitis, Takayasu’s arteritis and Wegener’s Granulomatosis.

Vasculitis specifically attacks the blood vessels, which causes inflammation. Inflammation of blood vessels causes a weakening and narrowing of the blood vessels. This deprives affected tissues and organs of blood supply, resulting in tissue damage. Different forms of Vasculitis can affect different blood vessels (Wegener’s, for instance, affects the small and medium vessels). Some varieties are relatively specific to certain organs or systems, but all can affect most any area of the body.

The symptoms of Vasculitis vary widely, depending on the form, but all usually include general aches and pains and fatigue. There will undoubtedly be symptoms related to the specific organs or systems involved as well (in the case of Wegener’s, chronic sinus issues are often seen).

Vasculitis diseases are quite rare and often difficult to diagnose because many of the symptoms mimic other, more common, diseases. Blood and urine tests and x-rays, CAT-scans and MRIs may help with diagnosis. Many times a tissue biopsy of the affected area is necessary. Because Vasculitis can be mistaken for other diseases, it is important to continue to seek medical attention, especially if current treatment is not helping.

Vasculitis diseases reach over all ages, genders and races. They can cause permanent organ and tissue damage if not treated early. There is no cure for Vasculitis but it can be treated with immuno-suppressant and steroidal medications. With treatment, Vasculitis can go into remission. Without treatment, it can lead to severe disability or death.

On that cheery note, I would add here that most people I have spoken with or read about are able to cope with Vasculitis with medications and lead a relatively normal life. Some people are able to get off medication completely and go years between flares. Others are on medication for the rest of their lives.

Research is ongoing in all areas of Vasculitis and what is useful in one type can sometimes be useful in others as well.

For more information on Vasculitis in general and the various diseases in the Vasculitis family, you can visit the Vasculitis Foundation website, which has a wealth of information. I cannot recommend it enough. It has been a huge help to me. It also has a list of physicians who specialize in the different Vasculitis diseases, as it is not always easy to find them.

Look for more specifics on Wegener's Granulomatosis next week.

(Please spread the word by about Vasculitis and let me know what you have done by emailing me at Thanks!)


  1. Good info Lisa. Perhaps sharing this info will help or give comfort to others with this disease.

  2. Lots of great info, Lisa! Keep it coming!!! :)

  3. Great info Lisa, thanks for sharing it with us!

  4. Very educational. Thanks for sharing.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.