Vasculitis is inflammation of the blood vessels. This condition affects the blood vessel walls – whether they are thickened, weakened, blocked, narrowed, or causing scars. As a result, the supply of oxygenated blood to certain tissues becomes blocked and causes pain and tissue damage.
Inflammation is a natural immune response to injury or infection. However, inflammation in vasculitis causes the immune system to attack healthy blood vessels, resulting in swollen and narrowed blood vessels.
The exact cause of vasculitis is unknown. However, it is likely that vasculitis occurs due to disturbances of the body’s immune system.
Causes of Vasculitis
Even though the exact cause of vasculitis is still unknown, experts believe that the symptoms of vasculitis are associated with the immune system. In general, your immune system functions to protect your body from various bacteria and viruses that cause disease. However, the system can also become overactive and attack healthy tissues.
Disorders of the immune system can be caused by several factors such as:
- Infection from Hepatitis B and C
- Blood cancer
- Autoimmune disease
- Certain drug allergies
In some cases, an allergic reaction to certain medications can lead to malfunctioning of the immune system. In other cases, certain viruses can also trigger vasculitis.
When to See a Doctor for Vasculitis?
Symptoms of vasculitis are diagnosed by an internist (internal medicine specialist). First, the doctor will check your symptoms and ask about your medical history. After that, there will be a series of physical examinations done to confirm the symptoms of vasculitis.
The physical tests include blood tests, urine tests, laboratory tests, x-rays, or imaging tests.
- Blood tests
Blood tests are used to determine the inflammation. This can be detected through elevated levels of C-reactive protein. In addition, blood tests can also identify antibodies that may be associated with vasculitis.
- Imaging Tests
Imaging tests are radiological examinations done to diagnose a disease. Through imaging tests, doctors can identify organs affected by vasculitis. Imaging tests include ultrasound, x-rays, MRI, PET scan, and CT scan
- Urine Tests
A urine test is done to check for the levels of red blood cells or protein in the urine. If there are increased levels, this indicates a problem with the blood vessels.
Symptoms of Vasculitis
The symptoms of vasculitis are wide ranging. Vasculitis can also affect any organs. Therefore, each symptom is different, depending on the affected area.
When your skin is affected by vasculitis, it can be indicated by a rash. If it affects your nerves, symptoms include lack of blood supply that begin with discomfort or muscle weakness.
Meanwhile, vasculitis that affects your brain can cause a stroke. On the other hand, vasculitis affecting the heart can lead to a heart attack. When the kidneys are exposed to vasculitis, the symptoms include abnormalities on the urine test. This can lead to progressive kidney failure.
Although the symptoms of vasculitis vary, the most common symptoms of vasculitis include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Treatment for Vasculitis
Treatment for vasculitis depends on the doctor’s diagnosis of the affected organ. If vasculitis is caused by an allergic reaction, symptoms will resolve on their own without requiring special treatment.
However, if vasculitis affects vital organs such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, or brain – it requires an intensive treatment method.
In general, vasculitis is treated with corticosteroids – medications containing steroids to increase steroid hormones when needed.
Vasculitis can also be treated with chemotherapy medicines for cancer patients. However, the dose will be adjusted. The objective is to suppress the malfunction in immune system response.
In people with mild vasculitis, your doctor may recommend painkillers such as acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen.
If the symptoms of vasculitis improve with medication, the doctor will gradually reduce the dose. This is done to prevent you from drug addiction.
In some cases, vasculitis can also cause complications such as aneurysms or inflammation of the blood vessels. Aneurysms and blockages in blood vessels can only be treated with surgery and diagnosed through a blood test.
Treatment Cost for Vasculitis
The cost for vasculitis treatment varies – depending on the type of vasculitis and the affected area.
For more information regarding the estimated costs of vasculitis treatment, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Vasculitis
Since the exact cause of vasculitis is unknown, you cannot completely prevent vasculitis. However, vasculitis is more likely to affect active smokers, people with hepatitis B and C or certain autoimmune diseases.
To prevent vasculitis, you can quit smoking and avoid factors that may trigger allergies and symptoms of vasculitis.
Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Vasculitis
Vasculitis due to allergic reactions can resolve on its own without having to undergo certain treatments. However, to ease symptoms more quickly, there are some remedies you can undertake at home, such as:
- Maintain a balanced diet. A healthy diet can prevent potential health problems such as diabetes or high blood pressure. If you are prescribed with corticosteroid medications, consult your doctor about what foods to eat and to avoid.
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise can prevent medication-induced bone loss. You can do simple exercises like walking.
- Get a vaccination. Regular vaccination can help prevent further infection due to treatment.
- Maintain your mental health. It is important for people with vasculitis to manage stress and emotions. You can do relaxation or regular exercises to reduce stress. Also seek emotional support from close friends or family.