Vasculitis (Arteritis, Angiitis)
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
- Vasculitis is the designation given to a group of uncommon diseases which result in inflammation of the blood vessels.
- Symptoms of vasculitis vary greatly and depend upon the organs affected and the severity of the disease.
- Diagnosis of vasculitis can be confirmed by a biopsy of involved tissue or angiography.
- Treatment is directed toward decreasing the inflammation of the blood vessels and improving the function of affected organs.
What is vasculitis?
Vasculitis is a general term for a group of uncommon diseases that feature inflammation of the blood vessels. The blood vessels of the body are referred to as the vascular system. The blood vessels are comprised of arteries that pass oxygen-rich blood to the tissues of the body and veins that return oxygen-depleted blood from the tissues to the lungs for oxygen. Vasculitis is characterized by inflammation in and damage to the walls of various blood vessels.
Each of the vasculitis diseases is defined by certain patterns of distribution of blood vessel involvement, particular organ involvement, and laboratory test abnormalities. As a group, these diseases are referred to as vasculitides.
The word vasculitis is derived from the Latin "vasculum", vessel + "- itis", inflammation. Another term for vasculitis is angiitis. When arteries are the inflamed blood vessels, the condition is also referred to as arteritis. When the veins are inflamed, it is referred to as venulitis.
What causes vasculitis, and what are examples of diseases with vasculitis?
The actual cause of these vasculitis diseases is usually not known. However, immune system abnormality and inflammation of blood vessels are common features. Each form of vasculitis has its own characteristic pattern of symptoms, much of which depends on what particular organs are affected.
Examples of vasculitis include:
- Kawasaki disease,
- Behçet's disease,
- polyarteritis nodosa,
- Wegener's granulomatosis,
- Takayasu's arteritis,
- Churg-Strauss syndrome,
- Giant cell arteritis (temporal arteritis), and
- Henoch-Schönlein purpura.
Vasculitis can also accompany:
- Infections (such as hepatitis B),
- Exposure to chemicals (such as amphetamines and cocaine),
- Cancers (such as lymphomas and multiple myeloma), and
- Rheumatic diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus).
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