Vasculitis is a group of rare diseases that cause inflammation of the blood vessels. Vasculitis can be mild or severe, short-term or chronic. This inflammation can make it difficult to get blood to all certain tissues or organs. The disease can affect just one organ or several. Vasculitis can lead to arthritis, stroke, lung inflammation, kidney failure, and peripheral nerve damage. Symptoms may include fever, headache, fatigue, weight loss, general aches and pains, night sweats, rash, and numbness or weakness.
There are three main groups of vasculitis:
- Large vessel vasculitis: Affects the aorta, the largest artery, and its major branches. Types of large-vessel vasculitis include giant cell arteritis, Takayasu arteritis, aortitis in Cogan’s syndrome.
- Medium vessel vasculitis: Attacks medium-sized arteries. Types of medium-vessel vasculitis are Kawasaki disease and polyarteritis nodosa.
- Small vessel vasculitis: Affects the smallest blood vessels, including capillaries and the smallest veins. These conditions include drug-induced vasculitis, cryoglobulinemic vasculitis, and IgA vasculitis.
The diagnosis of vasculitis requires imaging tests, such as computed tomography, angiography, and magnetic resonance imaging and often a tissue sample (biopsy).
Treatment aims at preventing permanent damage to vital organs such as the lungs, kidneys, and brain. Treatments involves the following agents:
- Steroid-sparing medications such as methotrexate and azathioprine, which are effective for the more mild forms of vasculitis. They have few long-term effects.
- Biologic medications: The latest approach to treatment, these have few long-term effects.
Why Mount Sinai
At Mount Sinai, we work with teams of nephrologists, pulmonologists, pathologists, radiologists, cardiologists, neurologists, and rheumatologists to diagnose and develop an appropriate treatment. We are a tertiary facility; often patients come here from other hospitals and health systems because of the highly advanced and sophisticated care we offer.