In medicine, vasculitis (plural: vasculitides) is a group of diseases featuring inflammation of the wall of blood vessels. Its main causes are autoimmune disorders and (occasionally) infections. Treatment depends on the cause. While most vasculitides are rare diseases, they generally affect several organ systems and can cause severe disability.
The types of vasculitis are distinguished by the type of blood vessel affected (aorta, large arteries, arterioles, capillaries and veins), the appearance of biopsy tissue of affected organs on light microscopy, and if necessary, with the help of immunohistochemistry (use of monoclonal antibodies against specific inflammatory protein markers).
Other diagnostic tools are the detection of circulating antibodies that are associated with forms of vasculitis. While these measurements have a low positive and negative predictive value (due to the high rates of both false positives and false negatives), they can direct the clinician to specific causes for vasculitis.
Infectious vasculitis is generally treated with directed antibiotics, while autoimmune forms often require treatment with immune suppression: steroids, DMARDs ("steroid-sparing agents") or cyclophosphamide (a mild form of chemotherapy). For very severe forms, bone marrow transplantation is presently being investigated as the ultimate silencing of the immune system.
Causes and types
- Medium-sized vessel vasculitis
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04