Vasculitis Pain Management
The diagnosis of vasculitis is based on a person's medical history, current symptoms, complete physical exam, and the results of specialized lab tests. A doctor can test for blood abnormalities, which can occur when vasculitis is present. These abnormalities include:
- A high white blood cell count
- A high platelet count
- Signs of kidney or liver problems
- Signs of an allergic reaction
Blood tests also can identify immune complexes or antibodies (ways the body fights off what it thinks is a threat) that cause vasculitis. Additional tests may include X-rays, tissue biopsies, blood vessel, and heart scans.
Treatment for vasculitis depends entirely upon diagnosis and the affected organs. When vasculitis is the result of an allergic reaction, it may go away on its own and not require treatment. In other instances, when critical organs such as the lungs, brain, or kidneys are involved, aggressive and timely treatment is necessary.
Treatment generally consists of corticosteroid medications (steroids). Chemotherapeutic drugs (such as those used to treat cancer) are also used, but in doses considerably lower than people with cancer may receive. The goal of this type of chemotherapy is to suppress the abnormal immune response that has led to blood vessel damage.
The outlook for someone with vasculitis varies, depending on the type of vasculitis the person has. In the past, people with severe vasculitis may have expected to survive only weeks or months. Today, however, normal life spans are possible with proper treatment. The success of treatment is related to prompt diagnosis, aggressive treatment and careful follow-up.
Once vasculitis is under control, medications may be cautiously withdrawn, with the hope that the patient will sustain a long remission or cure, without the need for further treatment. Because doctors cannot predict how long a person may remain in remission, it is very important for people with more severe forms of vasculitis to continue under the care of a knowledgeable doctor for the rest of their lives.