What is Vasculitis?
Vasculitis is an inflammation of the blood vessels (arteries, veins or capillaries). It occurs when the patient’s immune system mistakenly attacks a blood vessel. The inflammation can cause weakening or narrowing of the vessels, which can cut off blood flow to internal organs. Although the cause is unknown, vasculitis often follows an infection. It may also be the result of another disease or medications. Vasculitis is rare in children.
At Children’s Health℠, we work closely with both you and your primary care provider so that everyone involved has the information they need to create the best outcomes for your child.
What are the different types of Vasculitis?
There are many types of vasculitis; they differ based on which blood vessels are affected.
What are the signs and symptoms of Vasculitis?
Symptoms of vasculitis will vary based on which blood vessels are involved and how blood flow to the organs is being affected. Common symptoms of vasculitis may include:
- Weight loss
- Muscle and joint pain
- Shortness of breath
- Purple or red spots on the skin
- Numbness or weakness
How is Vasculitis diagnosed?
There are several tests to diagnose vasculitis in children. A doctor will go over your child's medical history and perform a physical exam. Your healthcare provider may also perform one or more of the following tests:
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan, a noninvasive test that uses X-rays to create cross-sectional pictures of the body
- Ultrasound, a noninvasive test that uses sound waves to take pictures of the body
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a noninvasive test that uses magnetic fields to produce images of the body
- Angiogram, a test that uses dye and special X-rays to show blood flowing through the blood vessels
- Biopsy, a test in which a small amount of tissue is surgically removed from a blood vessel and the tissue is then examined under a microscope
Not every child needs all these tests. Your physician will tell you exactly what the next steps are. Each year, the specialists at Children’s Health see more than 1,000 pediatric patients for vasculitis and other rheumatic disorders. We have the skills and resources necessary to provide comprehensive and compassionate care for your child too.
What are the causes of Vasculitis?
In most cases, the exact cause of vasculitis is unknown. It is thought to be an autoimmune disorder, a disease in which the immune system attacks healthy organs or tissue (in this case, the blood vessels). It can sometimes be triggered by other autoimmune disorders (such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or scleroderma), infection, certain blood cancers (such as leukemia or lymphoma), or in reaction to certain medications.
How is Vasculitis treated?
The severity of your child’s vasculitis and which organs are affected will determine the treatment. The goal of vasculitis treatment is to reduce the inflammation in the affected blood vessels. Your healthcare provider may recommend one or more of the following treatments:
- Medications: Prescription medications are used to either reduce inflammation or kill the cells that cause inflammation. Your healthcare provider may prescribe one or both to treat your child’s vasculitis. Common medications include:
- Corticosteroids such as prednisone, prednisolone and methylprednisolone help reduce inflammation
- Cytotoxic medicines including azathioprine, methotrexate, and cyclophosphamide destroy the cells that are causing the inflammation
- Surgery: In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to bypass blocked vessels
Children’s Health is part of the largest and longest established multi-specialty clinic for children with rheumatic diseases in the region. In our rheumatology clinic, dedicated health care professionals help patients and their families manage diseases like vasculitis.
Children’s Health uses a multidisciplinary approach to caring for your child. This allows us to offer our patients care from multiple specialists and experts, in a single appointment, at one location. If your child has symptoms of vasculitis, contact us. We provide the comprehensive and individualized care necessary to put your child back on the path to a healthy life.