Vasculitis is a medical term used for inflammation and necrosis of the blood vessel wall. Any type of blood vessel becomes a target. It may be an artery or a vein or small capillaries. Inflammation in blood vessel makes the vessel wall weak. Hence it can get stretched abnormally or increase in size. Sometimes the inflammation can cause narrowing or a complete blockage of the affected vessel.
Vasculitis may present in myriad of ways depending on the involvement of type of blood vessel, size, site, extent and associated underlying condition. The condition can be limited to a particular organ such as the brain, eye, skin, lung, intestine etc or it may be diffuse affecting many organs at the same time.
In milder clinical manifestation occurring from viral infection or drug reaction aggressive treatment may not be required. On the other hand severe aggressive therapy may be necessary if it is a manifestation of serious life threatening disease.
What Are The Causes Of Vasculitis?
The aetiopathogenesis of inflammatory damage to blood vessels revolves around the noxious attack by infective agents such as virus, bacteria, fungus or by direct immunological injury and in some cases the cause remains unknown. Sometimes vasculitis occurs after the infection has subsided. In such situation the immune system is triggered by the infection to cause damage to the vascular wall.
Vasculitis can also develop by certain autoimmune diseases that persist for long time in the patient. For example it can develop in patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus etc. Often an allergic reaction to certain medicines can trigger an inflammation in the blood vessel. Vasculitis can occur at any age and in both men and women equally.
Signs And Symptoms Of Vasculitis
The symptoms of vasculitis can be serious or of milder variety. Inflammation in the walls of blood vessel can cause myriad of symptoms. The basic pathology process viz; inflammation and necrosis can cause manifestation in different ways.
In some people the vessel wall can become extremely weak. The weak wall may stretch and bulge causing aneurysm of the vessel wall. Aneurysm if not detected and treated in time may rupture causing profuse bleeding and instant death.
If inflammation causes narrowing or blockage of the blood vessel, it may disrupt blood supply to the organ and tissue. Ultimately the organ or tissue will die because of lack of oxygen and nutrient supplied by blood.
Since vasculitis can develop in any vessel of the body, clinical symptoms are of enormous range. The symptoms may differ from one patient to another depending on the location of the blood vessel involved. For example if vasculitis occurs in blood vessels of skin it may manifest as rash. If vasculitis occurs in blood vessels of brain, patient may suffer from brain stroke.
If damage occurs in vessels supplying heart, it may lead to heart attack. When blood vessel of gastrointestinal system is affected it can cause loss of appetite abdominal pain and weight loss. Vasculitis causing damage to nerves can lead to loss of sensation, pain and weakness of muscles.
Treatment Options For Vasculitis Disease
Treatment of vasculitis will depend on the area or the organ involved by it. In majority of cases if vasculitis results from an allergic reaction to any drug or noxious agent it will go away and may not require any treatment. However, if vasculitis involves major organs such as the kidney, lung, brain etc it may need aggressive treatment.
The normal treatment measures are use of corticosteroid medicines and in some cases chemotherapy drugs. However, chemotherapy drugs if used are in lower doses than used for cancer patients. The main aim of using corticosteroid is to suppress the immune system that has caused inflammation in the blood vessels.
With modern day diagnostic approach and treatment protocol morbidity and mortality from vasculitis has considerably become less. However, careful follow-up by the patient is necessary because of the side effects certain medicines may produce.