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Arthritis and Vasculitis

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What Are the Symptoms of Vasculitis?

An enormous number of vasculitis symptoms are possible because any organ system may be involved. If the skin is involved, there may be a rash. If nerves suffer loss of blood supply, there may initially be an abnormal sensation followed by a loss of sensation or muscle weakness.

Vasculitis in the brain may cause a stroke, or in the heart, may result in a heart attack. Inflammation in the kidney could result in abnormalities noted on urine tests and can lead to progressive kidney failure.

Sometimes the symptoms may be as general as fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, and loss of energy. If you suffer any unusual symptoms, see your doctor.

How Is Vasculitis Treated?

Treatment of 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, or simply "steroids." Chemotherapy drugs (such as those used to treat cancer) are also used, but in doses usually lower than people with cancer may receive. The goal of this type of therapy is to suppress the abnormal immune response that has led to blood vessel damage.

What Is the Outlook for People With Vasculitis?

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 to be sure that side effects from medications do not develop.

Once vasculitis is under control, medications may be cautiously withdrawn, with the hope that the patient will sustain a long remission or cure, without the need for further treatment.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.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on October 19, 2014
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