Vasculitis symptoms, causes and risk factors

Vasculitis symptoms causes

This is an inflammation of the blood vessels. Vasculitis is causing changes in the blood vessel walls, such as scarring, narrowing, weakening or thickening. The mentioned changes can restrict the blood flow which will result in tissue damage and organ damage [1]. There are many different types of vasculitis and most of these types are rare. This condition can affect one organ or several organs. It can be acute (short – term) or chronic (long – lasting). This condition can affect all people but there are some types which are more common among certain groups. It depends on the type which you have, vasculitis can improve without treatment. There are some types of vasculitis which require medications because this can prevent flare – ups and control the inflammation [2,3]. This condition is also known as arteritis and angiitis.

Vasculitis symptoms, causes and risk factors

Symptoms: The signs and symptoms of this condition vary a lot and they are often related to the decreased blood flow throughout the body. Here are the most common signs and symptoms of the most types of vasculitis:

  • Nerve problems, such as numbness or weakness
  • Rash
  • Night sweats
  • General aches and pains
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Fever

If you have some sign or symptom which is worrying you, then you should talk with your doctor as soon as possible. There are some types of vasculitis which can worsen quickly so the early diagnosis is very important to get an effective treatment.

Types: Here are the types of vasculitis and their symptoms:

  • Takayasu’s arteries: visual changes, headaches, appetite loss, general malaise, fever, night sweats, high blood pressure, loss of pulse and joint pain
  • Kawasaki disease: rash and redness of the eyes and fever
  • Henoch – Schonlein purpura: a rash on buttocks or lower legs, joint pain, blood in urine and abdominal pain
  • Granulomatosis with polyangiitis: possibly coughing up blood, nosebleeds, sinus infections and nasal stiffness
  • Giant cell arteries: blindness, blurred or double vision, jaw pain, scalp tenderness and headaches
  • Cryoglobulinemia: tingling, numbness, weakness, joint pain and rash
  • Churg – Strauss syndrome: nasal allergies, nerve pain, skin changes and asthma
  • Buerger’s disease: inflammation and clots in the blood vessels of hands and feet which is resulting in pain in these areas
  • Behcet’s disease: acne – like skin lesions, eye inflammation and genital ulcers

Vasculitis symptoms, causes and risk factors

Vasculitis symptoms, causes  and risk factors

Causes: The exact cause for vasculitis is not fully understood. There are some types of vasculitis which are related to the person’s genetic makeup. There are other types of vasculitis which are resulting from the immune system attacking the blood vessel cells by mistake. Here are some possible triggers for this immune system reaction [4]:

  • Reactions to certain drugs
  • Immune system diseases, such as scleroderma, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Blood cancers
  • Infections, such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C

The blood vessels which are affected by the vasculitis can become inflamed or they can bleed. The inflammation is causing the layers of the blood vessel wall to thicken. This is narrowing the blood vessels which are reducing the amount of blood (this means that oxygen and other vital nutrients are also reduced) which is reaching your body’s tissues and organs.

Risk factors: It is known that vasculitis can happen at any age, in any sex or race. There are some factors which can increase the risk of vasculitis, such as

  • Having some types of autoimmune conditions, such as lupus, scleroderma and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Having chronic hepatitis B or C infections
  • Smoking [5]

Complications: The complications of vasculitis are depending on the type and the severity of the condition. Also they can be related to side effects of prescription medications which are used to treat this condition. Here are some complications of vasculitis:

  • Infections: Infections are including serious and life – threatening conditions, such as blood infection (also called sepsis) and pneumonia.
  • Vision loss or blindness: If the giant cell arteritis is not treated, then this is a possible complication of it.
  • Blood clots and aneurysms: The blood clot can form in the blood vessel which is obstructing the blood flow. There are rare cases when vasculitis can cause a blood vessel to weaken and bulge which is forming an aneurysm.
  • Organ damage: There are some types of vasculitis which can be severe and this is causing damage to the major organs [1].


[1] Berlit P. Diagnosis and treatment of cerebral vasculitis. Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders. 2010;3(1):29–42.

[2] Evans J, Steel L, Borg F, Dasgupta B. Long-term efficacy and safety of tocilizumab in giant cell arteritis and large vessel vasculitis. RMD Open. 2016;2(1):E000137.

[3] National Institutes of Health (NIH). Therapy for severe vasculitis shows long-term effectiveness. 2013. Retrieved from

[4] National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Vasculitis syndromes of the central and peripheral nervous systems fact sheet. Retrieved from

[5] Arulkumaran N, Periselneris N, Gaskin G, et al. Interstitial lung disease and ANCA-associated vasculitis: a retrospective observational cohort study. Rheumatology. 2011;50(11):2035-43.


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