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Arthritis and Takayasu's Arteritis

What Is Arteritis?

Arteritis is a general term that refers to the inflammation of arteries -- blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart and to the rest of the body. A closely related condition called vasculitis is inflammation of blood vessels in general -- including veins and arteries.

What Is Takayasu's Arteritis?

Takayasu's arteritis is an uncommon condition in which inflammation damages large and medium-sized arteries. The arteries most commonly affected are the branches of the aorta (the main blood vessel that leaves the heart), including the blood vessels that supply blood to the arms and travel through the neck to provide blood to the brain. The aorta itself is also often affected.

Less commonly, arteries that provide blood to the heart, intestines, kidneys, and legs may be involved.

Inflammation of large blood vessels may cause segments of the vessels to weaken and stretch, resulting in an aneurysm (bulging blood vessel). Vessels also can become narrowed or even completely blocked (called an occlusion).

Takayasu's arteritis was named for Dr. Mikoto Takayasu, the doctor who first described the disorder in 1908.

What Are the Symptoms of Takayasu's Arteritis?

Approximately half of all people with Takayasu's arteritis will have a sense of generalized illness. This may include low grade fevers, swollen glands, anemia, dizziness, night sweats, muscle aches, and/or arthritis.

The changes that occur in Takayasu's arteritis are often gradual, allowing alternate (collateral) routes of blood flow to develop. These alternate routes are typically smaller blood vessels. The collateral vessels may not be able to carry as much blood as the normal vessels.

In general, however, the blood flow that occurs beyond an area of narrowing is almost always adequate to allow tissues to survive. In rare cases, if collateral blood vessels are not available in sufficient quantity, the tissue that is normally supplied with blood and oxygen by those vessels will die.

Narrowing of blood vessels to the arms or legs may cause fatigue, pain, or aching due to reduced blood supply -- especially during activities such as shampooing the hair, exercising, or walking. It is much less common for decreased blood flow to cause a stroke or a heart attack. In some people, decreased blood flow to the intestines may lead to abdominal pain, especially after meals.

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