Vasculitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the blood vessels, often causing vessels to become weak or stretched or to become wider or narrower. Inflammation can be widespread, but many times, the condition is restricted to the specific organs, such as the skin or brain. While some forms may be mild and may resolve on their own without lasting damage or recurrence, many types of vasculitis can be severe – even life-threatening – and require proactive medical intervention to prevent significant damage to organs or to the vessels themselves.
Often, the specific cause of vasculitis is not known. In some cases, it may develop in response to infection or an allergic reaction to medication. Sometimes, vasculitis occurs after an infection has already been resolved. Some research suggests it could be triggered by an immune system-related disease like arthritis or lupus.
The symptoms of vasculitis may be widespread or they may be restricted to one or more organs. As a result, the symptoms can be diverse. For instance, if the skin is affected, there may be a rash or loss of sensation on the skin; when vasculitis affects the brain, a stroke can result. In other cases, general symptoms such as persistent fever, unexplained weight loss, chronic fatigue or loss of appetite may occur.
Treatment for vasculitis is determined by which organs are affected, and often includes the use of prescription corticosteroid medications or low doses of chemotherapeutic agents commonly used in cancer treatment. The goals of therapy are to reduce or resolve potentially dangerous symptoms and, ideally, suppress the abnormal immune system response that is contributing to vessel damage. Your treatment will be customized for your symptoms and needs.
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