What Is Vasculitis?

Vasculitis is a general term that refers to inflammation of blood vessels. When blood vessels become inflamed, they may weaken, stretch and change size. They can increase in size or become narrower -- even to the point of closing entirely.

Vasculitis can affect people of all ages, but there are types of vasculitis that occur in certain age groups more often than others.Some of the many forms of vasculitis may affect a particular organ.  There are forms that affect only the skin, eyes, brain or certain internal organs. There are also types of vasculitis that may affect many organs at the same time.  Some of these general forms may be mild and not require treatment. Other forms may be severe if they affect critical organs.

We do not know what causes most types of vasculitis. Genetic factors (different genes) appear be somewhat important in the disease. Vasculitis is thought to be an autoimmune disease, which means the body comes under attack by its own immune system. In vasculitis, the immune system attacks blood vessels.

Some cases of vasculitis are caused by reactions to medicines. Also, some chronic (long-term) infections, including with hepatitis C or hepatitis B virus, can cause vasculitis.

Vasculitis can be a part of other rheumatic diseases, mainly including systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren's syndrome. Most patients with vasculitis have none of these diseases.

Who Gets Vasculitis?

Vasculitis affects persons of both sexes and all ages. A few forms of vasculitis affect certain groups of people. For instance, Kawasaki disease occurs only in children. IgA Vasculitis (Henoch-Schönlein) is much more common in children than adults. On the other hand, giant cell arteritis occurs only in adults over 50 years old.

How is Vasculitis Diagnosed?

Physicians suspect vasculitis when a patient has symptoms and abnormal results of the physical exam, lab tests or both, and there is no other clear cause.

How is Vasculitis Treated?

Drugs such as Glucocoricoids (prednisone, prednisolone and others), Immune-suppressing drugs(E.g cyclophosphamide) as well as surgery depending on the severity of the disease.

Source: http://www.rheumatology.org/Practice/Clinical/Patients/Diseases_And_Conditions/Vasculitis/