Vasculitis is a little understood family of diseases, and for some people, the disease presents when their immune system attacks the body, instead of defending it, causing inflammation leading to tissue and organ damage.
Vasculitis, as the name implies, is an inflammation of the blood vessels, arteries, veins or capillaries.
When such inflammation occurs, it causes changes in the walls of blood vessels, such as weakening and narrowing that can progress to the point of blood vessel blockage and or bleeds. A result of vasculitis is that the tissues and organs supplied by affected blood vessels do not get enough blood. This can cause organ and tissue damage that is usually permanent. So far there is no cure. When diagnosed, treatment involves anti-inflammatory drugs, including steroids and chemotherapy.
Today, with appropriate and early diagnosis, treatment can often result in patients gaining remission for long periods. The drugs used to induce and maintain remission are toxic and can have serious side effects, so research is ongoing to find improved ways of managing these diseases and hopefully eventually a cure. The length of treatment varies, with some people using medications for extended periods of time.
The different types of vasculitis are classified according to the size and location of the blood vessels that are affected.
Who gets vasculitis?
Vasculitis can affect people of all ages, from children to older adults. Some types of vasculitis occur in certain age groups more than others.