Vasculitis Treatment Guide

A guide to vasculitis treatment and diagnosis from our rheumatology specialists in Arizona and Oklahoma.

Topic Guide

What Is Vasculitis?

Symptoms of Vasculitis

Causes of Vasculitis

Vasculitis Diagnosis

Vasculitis Treatment

Living with Vasculitis

What is Vasculitis? 

Vasculitis is a disease caused by inflammation in the blood vessels that restricts blood flow and damages organs in the body. Vasculitis is a form of autoimmune disease that develops when the immune system becomes overactive and attacks the body’s healthy tissues.  

Symptoms of vasculitis can appear suddenly or over time. Symptoms may worsen at times and improve at others. These cycles are known as “flares” and are common with many autoimmune diseases.  

Vasculitis can develop in adults and children, but certain types of vasculitis  are more common among certain age groups. There are at least 20 forms of vasculitis affecting the large, medium, and small vessels throughout the body. A rheumatologist will often manage a vasculitis diagnosis along with other specialists (ophthalmologists, cardiologists, and neurologists) depending on the body systems that are affected. 

what is vasculitis 900

Symptoms of Vasculitis 

Vasculitis symptoms vary greatly depending on the type of vasculitis. These symptoms may include one, or multiple of the following: 

  • New or worsening fatigue and general weakness 
  • Fever 
  • Unexplained weight loss 
  • Rash 
  • Headache or pain in the jaw or face when chewing 
  • Muscle pain or weakness 
  • GI distress 
  • Tingling or numbness 
  • Nerve or joint pain 

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to discuss them with your primary care provider or a rheumatologist. Summit Rheumatology’s vasculitis specialists will evaluate your symptoms and rule out other potential causes. 

symptoms of vasculitis

Causes of Vasculitis 

Doctors and researchers don’t fully understand what causes vasculitis. It’s believed that certain types of vasculitis may be genetic. Having a close family member with vasculitis could increase the probability of developing the disease. More research is needed to determine what genes may be linked to vasculitis. 

Vasculitis may also be triggered by certain environmental factors or other diagnoses: 

  • Certain viruses or bacterial infections, specifically Hepatitis B and C 
  • Blood cancer 
  • Allergic reactions 
  • Other autoimmune diseases like lupus and scleroderma 
  • Certain medications 
  • Chemical exposure 

Vasculitis Diagnosis 

If you or your primary care provider suspects that you may have vasculitis, you’ll likely see a rheumatologist for further testing. You do not always need a referral to visit a vasculitis specialist or rheumatologist. Check with your provider or insurance company to determine if you require a referral. 

Your vasculitis specialist will review your medical history, conduct a physical examination, and run tests before diagnosing vasculitis.  

Lab Tests for Vasculitis 

Vasculitis comes in many forms, which can make diagnosing the disease difficult. Some types of vasculitis aren’t diagnosed with any one test. Your rheumatologist or vasculitis specialist may order one or multiple of the following vasculitis tests: 

  • Blood tests, including anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody tests (ANCA), look for the antibodies that can point to vasculitis as a cause of symptoms 
  • Ultrasounds or CT scans can identify inflammation or blockages in the vessels 
  • Biopsies analyze samples of tissue to identify signs of damage 
  • A urinalysis tests for blood cells or protein in the urine that can indicate certain types of vasculitis 
  • Electrocardiograms and echocardiograms may be ordered when heart symptoms are present. These can assess the heart’s function and determine if inflammation is impacting the heart. 

Vasculitis Treatment 

Treatment for vasculitis will vary depending on the form of vasculitis and the severity of the disease. While some forms of vasculitis resolve on their own or more quickly, others require more intense treatment and may require long-term management.  

Vasculitis Medications 

Your rheumatologist or vasculitis specialist may prescribe one or multiple of the following medications as treatment for vasculitis: 

  • Prednisone: A corticosteroid that is prescribed temporarily to reduce swelling and inflammation. 
  • Methotrexate: An immunosuppressant commonly prescribed to individuals with autoimmune disease. Methotrexate can stop the inflammatory response that causes vasculitis.  
  • Biologic medications: Medications like Rituximab, Infliximab, and Adalimumab are IV medications that may be prescribed to treat vasculitis.   
  • Cyclophosphamide: This immunosuppressant drug targets immune cells that trigger inflammatory responses.  
  • Mycophenolate: An immunosuppressive drug that may be prescribed to manage vasculitis in the longer term.  

Your rheumatologist will consider your medical history, disease severity, and lifestyle to determine the best course of vasculitis treatment. 

Living with Vasculitis

Many vasculitis patients live full, active lives when their disease is properly managed. A combination of safe, physical activity, diet, and lifestyle changes can improve your life with vasculitis. 

Vasculitis and Stress 

Stress is a known cause of inflammation. Incorporating stress-reducing activities into your daily routine can help reduce inflammation that may lead to flares or worsen vasculitis symptoms. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to help reduce stress. Some other stress-reducing activities include: 

  • Journaling 
  • Deep breathing exercises 
  • A brisk walk or other light exercise (Please discuss approved exercises with your vasculitis specialist) 
  • Listening to music 

Vasculitis Diet 

Your rheumatologist or vasculitis specialist may recommend following an anti-inflammatory diet to reduce vasculitis symptoms and prevent further inflammation. Diets rich in foods like leafy greens, healthy fat sources, and lean proteins may help patients with autoimmune diseases manage their symptoms. 

The Mediterranean diet is a great place to start when exploring anti-inflammatory diets. Your rheumatologist can also make suggestions and help you identify anti-inflammatory foods. 

If you suspect you may have vasculitis, or have recently been diagnosed, our team at Summit Rheumatology offers vasculitis treatment in Arizona and Oklahoma. 

We are currently accepting new patients! Give our team a call in Arizona at (480) 494-2770 or in Oklahoma at (405) 260-8605 to schedule a new patient appointment with our vasculitis specialists. 

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Oklahoma Contact Information

Phone

Edmond: (405) 260-8605

Fax

(405) 369-9310

Arizona Contact Information

Phone

Gilbert: (480) 494-2770
Casa Grande: (520) 557-5660

Fax

(480) 494-2771

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