Vasculitis is a family of rare and chronic autoimmune diseases, all characterized by the inflammation of blood vessels. There are more than 15 different vasculitis diseases, all of which can affect people of various ages, races, and genders. While the diseases are similar in their mechanisms, they differ in respect to the blood vessels and organs affected, the medications used to treat them, and their physical manifestations. A few types of vasculitides include: Kawasaki disease, Polyarteritis Nodosa, Takayasu’s Arteritis, and Wegener’s Granulomatosis.
The outlook for people who have vasculitis varies, depending on both the type and severity of the vasculitis. Early diagnosis and treatment is crucial for a positive prognosis. Because vasculitis is caused in part by an overactive immune system, treatment usually involves the use of immune system suppressants. These medications, though necessary, have a long list of undesirable side effects. Vasculitis tends to require ongoing treatment, and in periods of remission, maintenance drugs are needed to prevent a “flare”. In more severe cases, treatment may not help, and vasculitis can lead to disability or even death.
There is currently no cure for vasculitis, and in general, very little is known about this family of diseases. As the incidence of vasculitis is rising, much more research is needed to learn more about its cause, cure, and treatment in order to save thousands of lives around the world.