Vasculitis may not be a common health problem, but it can affect anyone at any age. And getting an early diagnosis makes it easier to relieve your symptoms, put the disease in remission, and prevent serious complications.
To get early treatment, however, you must first spot the warning signs. We put together this list of symptoms so you’ll know when to come in for an evaluation with Behnam Khaleghi, MD, at Pacific Rheumatology Medical Center.
Vasculitis is a large family of diseases
Vasculitis refers to inflamed blood vessels, a condition that can affect any artery or vein in your body from small capillaries to large vessels like the aorta. Long-term inflammation damages the affected blood vessels. They may become thickened, weakened, narrowed, or scarred, all of which can diminish blood vessel function and block blood flow.
As vasculitis progresses, the symptoms you develop depend on which organ or body part is affected. Researchers have identified at least 30 types of vasculitis, so these are a few examples to illustrate the broad impact of vasculitis in your body.
Giant cell arteritis
Giant cell arteritis is the most common type of large-vessel vasculitis in adults. It affects arteries serving your face and scalp, especially the area around your temples. This type of arteritis can also affect the aorta and its branches.
Polyarteritis nodosa affects medium-sized blood vessels that supply your skin, joints, nervous system, heart, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs. This type of vasculitis may affect one organ or multiple organ systems.
Buerger’s disease causes blood clotting in the arteries and veins serving your extremities, which restricts the blood supply and leads to problems in your hands and feet.
This type of vasculitis causes inflammation in your large joints and structures in the joints. Polymyalgia rheumatica can affect any joint in your body but often develops in your shoulders, hips, and neck.
Urticarial vasculitis affects your skin, causing swelling in small blood vessels and resulting in red patches or hives.
Warning signs of vasculitis
Though vasculitis is complex, some common symptoms tend to appear in all types of arteritis, in addition to the symptoms that are associated with each type.
In many patients, the earliest sign of vasculitis is generally feeling under the weather. You may experience symptoms such as:
- Skin rash
- Body aches and pains
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Nerve problems (pain, tingling, numbness)
You should also be aware of more specific symptoms that develop in the most common types of vasculitis as the disease progresses:
Ears and nose:
- Sinus infections
- Chronic congestion
- Ringing in your ears
- Hearing loss
- Red, burning eyes
- Changes in vision
- Vision loss in one eye
- Abdominal pain
- Mouth ulcers
- Bloody or dark urine
- Swelling in your mouth, lips, or tongue
Heart and lungs
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Joint pain
- Ulcers or sores
- Leg pain
- Red or purple spots on your skin
- Swelling, pain, or numbness in your hands or feet
Early treatment protects you from complications that develop from vasculitis such as organ damage, blood clots, vision loss, a heart attack, and system-wide infections.
If you have any worrisome symptoms, contact Pacific Rheumatology Medical Center so we can schedule an appointment and determine if your symptoms are related to vasculitis or other health conditions.