Vasculitis is an umbrella term for a group of rare autoimmune conditions that occur when blood vessels in part of your body get inflamed. Left untreated, the inflamed blood vessels can affect circulation and lead to tissue damage. Fortunately, there are a number of treatment options for vasculitis, but it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis as quickly as possible.
Here at Houston Kidney Specialists Center, our team specializes in diagnosing and treating vasculitis throughout the body and especially in the kidneys. With four locations in Houston and Cypress, Texas, we can help you get to the bottom of your vasculitis.
What causes vasculitis?
Vasculitis is a type of autoimmune condition, meaning it occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your own blood vessels. This might be caused by a reaction to drugs or chemicals and cause a localized problem, such as a rash. Sometimes vasculitis occurs as a symptom of another illness, such as certain cancers.
However, some types of vasculitis are called ‘primary system vasculitis’ (PSV) and seem to occur with no obvious cause. They include the following:
- Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA), which affects the nose, sinuses, ears, lungs and kidneys
- Eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA), which affects the lungs and skin
- Giant cell arteritis/temporal arteritis (GCA), which affects the arteries in the head and neck
- Henoch Schönlein purpura (HSP), which affects the skin, kidneys, and bowel
- Microscopic polyangiitis (MPA), which affects the lungs and kidneys
- Polyarteritis nodosa (PAN), which affects the intestines and kidneys
What are the most common signs of vasculitis?
Because vasculitis can occur among blood vessels anywhere in the body, it can cause a wide range of symptoms depending on the affected area. However, there are some common signs and symptoms to watch out for.
Fatigue is one of the most common vasculitis symptoms. Vasculitis reduces circulation, so oxygen and nutrients no longer flow effectively throughout the body.
Vasculitis often affects blood flow to muscles, leading to muscle weakness and muscle loss. If you notice sudden muscle weakness or unexplained weight loss, it could be a sign of vasculitis.
Chronic pain or headaches
Vasculitis often affects the nerves, causing nerve damage that can lead to chronic pain. Additionally, many forms of vasculitis affect blood vessels in the head, causing frequent headaches and migraines.
Rashes, especially reddish-purplish rashes, often occur with vasculitis due to small blood vessels getting inflamed and bleeding into the skin.
What is kidney vasculitis?
Here at Houston Kidney Specialists Center, we specialize in vasculitis treatment because, although this condition can strike anywhere in the body, the small blood vessels in the kidney seem to be especially sensitive to vasculitis.
Often, the first sign of kidney vasculitis is bloody or tea-colored urine. Kidney vasculitis can be more common in people on dialysis or with end-stage renal disease (ESRD), so if you notice sudden fatigue or discolored urine, it’s important to let us know.
How is vasculitis treated?
Although vasculitis can occur in a number of areas, it can often be treated in similar ways, such as through corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, or surgery if needed.
Corticosteroids and immunosuppressants are usually prescribed in order to lower inflammation and reduce autoimmune activity. Depending on your condition, you may need to take these medications for a few months for acute conditions or for the rest of your life if you’re diagnosed with a long-term autoimmune problem.
If you have already experienced serious tissue damage from vasculitis, you may need surgery to repair these areas or to redirect blood flow. If your kidneys are severely damaged due to vasculitis, you may even need a kidney transplant.
If you’ve started experiencing any of the initial signs or symptoms of vasculitis, it’s important to contact Houston Kidney Specialists Center as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis. To learn more, call 281-429-8780 or book an appointment online.