Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Vasculitis Awareness Week

This week is Vasculitis awareness week. Since Vasculitis is one of the many medical conditions I deal with on a daily basis I thought I would write about it here.

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.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Vasculitis?

The signs and symptoms of vasculitis vary. They depend on the type of vasculitis you have, the organs involved, and how severe the condition is. Some people may have few signs and symptoms. Other people may become very sick.

Sometimes, the signs and symptoms develop gradually over months. Other times, the signs and symptoms develop faster, over days or weeks.
Systemic Signs and Symptoms

Systemic signs and symptoms are those that affect you in a general, or overall, way. Common systemic signs and symptoms of vasculitis are:

* Fever
* Loss of appetite
* Weight loss
* Fatigue (tiredness)
* General aches and pains

Organ- or Body System-Specific Signs and Symptoms

Vasculitis can affect specific organs and body systems, causing a range of signs and symptoms.

If the condition affects your skin, you may notice a number of skin changes. For example, you may notice purple or red spots or bumps, clusters of small dots, splotches, bruises, or hives. Your skin also may itch.

If the condition affects your joints, you may ache or develop arthritis in one or more joints.

If the condition affects your lungs, you may feel short of breath. You may even cough up blood. The results from a chest x ray may show signs of pneumonia, even though that isn't what you have.
Gastrointestinal Tract

If the condition affects your gastrointestinal tract, you may get ulcers in your mouth or have abdominal pain.

In severe cases, blood flow to the intestines can be blocked. This can cause the wall of the intestines to weaken and possibly rupture. A rupture can lead to serious problems or even death.
Sinuses, Nose, Throat, and Ears

If the condition affects your sinuses, nose, throat, and ears, you may have sinus or chronic (ongoing) middle ear infections. Other symptoms include ulcers in the nose and, in some cases, hearing loss.

If vasculitis affects your eyes, you may develop red, itchy, burning eyes. Your eyes also may become sensitive to light, and your vision may become blurry. In rare cases, certain types of vasculitis may cause blindness.

If vasculitis affects your brain, symptoms may include headache, problems thinking clearly or changes in mental function, or stroke-like symptoms, such as muscle weakness and paralysis (an inability to move).

If the condition affects your nerves, you may have numbness, tingling, and weakness in various parts of your body. You also may have a loss of feeling or strength in your hands and feet and shooting pains in your arms and legs.

How Is Vasculitis Treated?

Treatment for vasculitis will depend on the type of vasculitis you have, which organs are affected, and how severe the condition is.

People who have severe vasculitis are treated with prescription medicines. Rarely, surgery may be done. People who have mild vasculitis may find relief with over-the-counter pain medicines, such as acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen.
Goals of Treatment

The main goal of vasculitis treatment is to reduce inflammation in the affected blood vessels. This usually is done by reducing or stopping the immune response that caused the inflammation.
Types of Treatment

Common prescription medicines used to treat vasculitis include corticosteroid and cytotoxic medicines.

Corticosteroids help reduce inflammation in your blood vessels. Examples of corticosteroids are prednisone, prednisolone, and methylprednisolone.

Cytotoxic medicines may be prescribed if vasculitis is severe or if corticosteroids don't work well. Cytotoxic medicines kill the cells that are causing the inflammation. Examples of these medicines are azathioprine, methotrexate, and cyclophosphamide.

Your doctor may prescribe both corticosteroids and cytotoxic medicines.

Other treatments may be used for certain types of vasculitis. For example, the standard treatment for Kawasaki disease is high-dose aspirin and immune globulin. Immune globulin is a medicine given intravenously (injected into a vein).

Certain types of vasculitis may require surgery to remove aneurysms that have formed as a result of the condition. (An aneurysm is an abnormal bulge in the wall of a blood vessel.)

More talk about tuesday posts can be found here.

1 comment:

shopannies said...

thanks for sharing I did not know this information learn a little every day from reading blogs