Early treatment of vasculitis is essential if you want to prevent complications, and learning the signs is the only way to know you should seek help. But don’t expect vasculitis to be easy to recognize.
Vasculitis can affect any part of your body and cause a vast range of symptoms. And the five earliest signs are generic problems that could represent many conditions other than vasculitis.
If you have any of the symptoms mentioned below, don’t wait to seek the help of Behnam Khaleghi, MD, here at Pacific Rheumatology Medical Center. As an experienced specialist in vasculitis, he can sort through your symptoms, determine if you have vasculitis, and begin advanced treatment.
Vasculitis includes about 20 disorders that cause inflammation in the arteries, veins, and capillaries. Vasculitis may occur alone (primary vasculitis) or develop as a result of another disease (secondary vasculitis). For example, people diagnosed with lupus often develop vasculitis.
Blood vessel inflammation causes swelling, scarring, and narrowing that restricts blood flow. As blood flow changes, the organs served by the affected vessels become damaged.
Each type of vasculitis affects different blood vessels throughout the body. This list shows the body areas affected by six types of vasculitis:
- Giant cell arteritis: affects the head, face, and neck
- Polyarteritis nodosa: affects the intestines, skin, joint, heart, and other organs
- Buerger’s disease: affects the hands, arms, feet, and legs
- Polymyalgia rheumatica: affects the shoulder and hip joints
- Urticarial vasculitis: affects small blood vessels in the skin
- Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA): affects the sinuses, nose, lungs, and kidneys
The symptoms associated with vasculitis are just as diverse as the numerous body areas affected.
Five signs of vasculitis
Your symptoms could range from mild to life-threatening, and they may appear suddenly or develop gradually. Even though each type of vasculitis has unique symptoms, they can all cause the following five symptoms:
- General aches and pains
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
These generic symptoms could arise from any number of health conditions. That’s why it’s important to connect with us and schedule an exam. As rheumatology specialists with expertise in vasculitis, we can check for other signs and symptoms, run lab tests, and determine if you have vasculitis.
Other vasculitis symptoms
Some types of vasculitis are limited to one location or organ, while others affect multiple body areas. The possible symptoms commonly found in each body system include:
When vasculitis affects your skin, you may have a rash, clusters of small red dots, bruises, lumps (nodules), hives, itching, open sores, and red spots caused by bleeding under the skin.
You may experience redness, itchiness, burning, and vision changes. One of the first signs of giant cell arteritis is blindness in one eye.
Nose and ears
Recurrent sinus infections, a runny nose, nose bleeds, sores in your nose, dizziness, inner ear infections, and ringing in your ears occur in some types of vasculitis. Hearing loss is possible in severe cases.
Gastrointestinal (GI) tract
You could have symptoms in any part of your GI tract, from sores in your mouth to stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea.
Head, face, and scalp
Headaches, scalp tenderness, and hoarseness are three signs associated with some types of vasculitis. You may also have swelling in your tongue or throat.
Muscles and joints
Vasculitis may cause joint pain and swelling resembling arthritis. Muscle aches and weakness are also common. Foot drop (difficulty lifting your foot off the ground) is a sign of advanced muscle weakness.
The most common lung symptom is shortness of breath. You may also cough up blood if bleeding develops inside the lungs.
Classic nerve symptoms include pain, tingling, and numbness. You’re most likely to have nerve symptoms in your hands, feet, arms, and legs.
Hands and feet
Vasculitis may cause hand and foot problems beyond nerve symptoms, including ulcers (open sores), swelling or hardening of your palms and soles, and gangrene.
Seek early treatment
The range of possible symptoms may seem overwhelming. Rather than trying to figure out what your symptoms may mean, the best way to protect your well-being is to get an early diagnosis.
Without treatment, some types of vasculitis can lead to serious, life-threatening complications — even in the early stages. For example, kidney disease is one of the first signs of a type of vasculitis called ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV).
If you have any questions about your symptoms, don’t hesitate to seek help from our caring team at Pacific Rheumatology Medical Center. Call our office in Tustin or Laguna Hills, California, or request an appointment online today.