LivingVasculitis What is this autoimmune disease?

Vasculitis What is this autoimmune disease?

As in other autoimmune diseases, vasculitis is not an ailment in itself, but is used as a term to encompass a group of diseases that have one thing in common: inflammation of the blood vessels – arteries, arterioles, capillaries, venules and veins. Depending on where the inflammation is, the size and other characteristics, up to eleven different types of vasculitis can be differentiated, because the inflammation being located on one side or the other of the body will influence – and greatly – what type of clinical manifestations it will have. the illness.

In general, it can affect any age , “although there are more characteristic subtypes, depending on the age group,” they point out from the Spanish Society of Rheumatology (SER). Thus, in children, the most common is Kawasaki disease or Henoch-Schönlein syndrome, while in elderly people giant cell arteritis is more typical.

Doctors still do not know what causes vasculitis in all its variants , but they do know in some, those caused by an infectious or pharmacological agent, “such as that associated with the hepatitis B virus (HBV); cryoglobulinemic vasculitis, associated with the hepatitis C virus (HCV); and cutaneous leukocytoclastic vasculitis, preceded by an infection or taking a drug, “they point out from the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona.

In other vasculitis, the origin remains a mystery. The hypothesis of genetic predisposition is considered in some of them, while in others some hormonal factors (which are more frequent in women and children) and environmental factors have been identified, which contribute to activating the inflammatory response in the blood vessel wall. .

As it is a disease with different subtypes, the symptoms are very varied, but there are some points in common: “The general symptoms are usually fever, fatigue, weight loss or a general condition ,” says Ricardo Blanco, rheumatologist at the Hospital Marqués de Valdecilla de Santander University. “In some subtypes – he adds – there are painful oral ulcers, different types of skin lesions, clinical signs of the upper respiratory tract (sinusitis) and even tingling in the extremities.” He recommends that older patients see a doctor “with a recent severe headache, pain in the shoulders or thighs, and temporary loss of vision or double vision.” In the case of children, on the contrary, “the most striking signs are purple spots on the skin , abdominal pain and pain in the joints.”

Depending on the type of vasculitis, the treatment will also vary, although the usual thing is to prescribe corticosteroids , “usually at high doses (adjusted to the patient’s weight), both orally (prednisone) and intravenously (methylprednisone)”, they indicate in the Clinic of Barcelona, although they clarify that the intravenous route is more common in more serious cases. Along with this, in cases where the dose is very high or there are many side effects, an additional immunosuppressant is usually added.

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