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A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): A.D.A.M.; 2013.

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.

Polyarteritis nodosa

Periarteritis nodosa

Last reviewed: August 3, 2014.

Polyarteritis nodosa is a serious blood vessel disease. The small and medium-sized arteries become swollen and damaged.

Causes

Arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to organs and tissues. The cause of polyarteritis nodosa is unknown. The condition occurs when certain immune cells attack the affected arteries.

More adults than children get this disease. The tissues that are fed by the affected arteries do not get the oxygen and nourishment they need. Damage occurs as a result.

People with active hepatitis B or hepatitis C may develop this disease.

Symptoms

Symptoms are caused by damage to affected organs. The skin, joints, muscle, gastrointestinal tract, heart, kidneys, and nervous system are often affected.

Symptoms include:

If nerves are affected, you may have numbness, pain, burning, and weakness. Damage to the nervous system may cause strokes or seizures.

Exams and Tests

No lab tests are available to diagnose polyarteritis nodosa. You will have a physical exam.

Lab tests that can help make the diagnosis include:

Treatment

Treatment involves medicines to suppress the immune system. These may include steroids, such as prednisone. Similar medicines, such as azathioprine, methotrexate or mycophenolate that allow for reducing the dose of steroids are often used as well. Cyclophosphamide is used in severe cases.

For polyarteritis nodosa related to hepatitis, treatment may involve plasmapheresis and antiviral medicines.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Current treatments with steroids and other drugs that suppress the immune system (such as azathioprine or cyclophosphamide) can improve symptoms and the chance of long-term survival.

The most serious complications usually involve the kidneys and gastrointestinal tract.

Without treatment, the outlook is poor.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you develop symptoms of this disorder. Early diagnosis and treatment may improve the chance of a good outcome.

Prevention

There is no known prevention. However, early treatment can prevent some damage and symptoms.

References

  1. Sergent JS. Polyarteritis and related disorders. In: Harris ED Jr., Budd RC, Genovese MC, Firestein GS, Sargent JS, eds. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2008: chap 83.
  2. Stone JH. The systemic vasculitides. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011: chap 278.
  3. Ribi C, Cohen P, Pagnoux C, et al. Treatment of polyarteritis nodosa and microscopic polyangiitis without poor-prognosis factors: A prospective randomized study of one hundred twenty-four patients. Arthritis Rheum. 2010; 62:1186-1197. [PubMed: 20131268]

Review Date: 8/3/2014.

Reviewed by: Gordon A. Starkebaum, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

Figures

  • Polyarteritis, microscopic on the shin.
    Microscopic polyarteritis 2.
    Circulatory system.

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