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Arthritis and Churg Strauss Vasculitis

How Is Churg Strauss Vasculitis Diagnosed? continued...

Once the diagnosis of CSV is suspected, a biopsy (tissue sample) of an affected area can confirm that inflammation of blood vessels is present. This is most easily done if there is a suspicious rash.

If easily accessible areas, such as the skin, are not affected, the diagnosis may be supported by abnormal findings on a kidney or lung biopsy. These organs would be recommended for biopsy only if there were abnormal findings during an exam or on X-rays. If the results of blood or urine tests imply kidney involvement, a biopsy to show how the kidney is affected may be useful.

How Is Churg Strauss Vasculitis Treated?

CSV is generally a progressive, serious, and sometimes life-threatening disorder. It requires treatment with drugs that suppress the immune system. This is intended to minimize or prevent damage to normal tissues.

Corticosteroids, usually called simply "steroids," are the most common drugs used to treat CSV. The most frequently used drugs in this category are prednisone (by mouth) and prednisolone (IV). People whose nervous system, heart, kidneys, or intestinal tract are not affected do extremely well with prednisone alone.

People who have critical organ system involvement are generally treated with corticosteroids and chemotherapy medications -- such as Cytoxan, methotrexate, or Imuran.

These drugs were originally referred to as chemotherapy because they were first used to treat cancer.

The doses of medication used for rheumatic or autoimmune conditions, such as CSV, are usually somewhat lower than the doses used for cancer treatment. However, use of these medicines should be closely monitored to prevent harmful side effects. It is typical for your doctor to order blood work frequently while you are treated with one of these medications.

Once it is apparent that the disease is under control, doctors slowly reduce the dose of prednisone and eventually discontinue it entirely, if possible. If the person also is on one of the chemotherapy drugs, then that medication may be slowly reduced once it appears that the disease is well controlled. This often takes at least six months or even up to several years.

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