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Vasculitis is a condition that involves inflammation in the blood vessels. The condition occurs if your immune system attacks your blood vessels by mistake. This may happen as the result of an infection, a medicine, or another disease or condition.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

About Vasculitis

Vasculitis (vas-kyu-LI-tis) is a condition that involves inflammation in the blood vessels. The condition occurs if your immune system attacks your blood vessels by mistake. This may happen as the result of an infection, a medicine, or another disease or condition.

"Inflammation" refers to the body's response to injury, including injury to the blood vessels. Inflammation may involve pain, redness, warmth, swelling, and loss of function in the affected tissues.

In vasculitis, inflammation can lead to serious problems. Complications depend on which blood vessels, organs, or other body systems are affected.


Vasculitis can affect any of the body's blood vessels. These include arteries, veins, and capillaries. Arteries carry blood from your heart to your body's organs. Veins carry blood from your organs and limbs back to your heart. Capillaries connect the small arteries and veins.

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What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Serial ANCA determinations for monitoring disease activity in patients with ANCA-associated vasculitis: systematic review

BACKGROUND: Antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCAs) are considered by some investigators to be sensitive markers of disease activity and have been suggested to predict relapse and guide therapeutic decisions. Studies using serial ANCA monitoring in patients with ANCA-associated vasculitis (AASV) have yielded controversial results during the last 15 years. To assess the diagnostic value of serial ANCA testing in the follow-up of patients with AASV, we conducted a systematic review of the available literature.

Plasma exchange for renal vasculitis and idiopathic rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis: a meta-analysis

BACKGROUND: Plasma exchange may be effective adjunctive treatment for renal vasculitis. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of plasma exchange for renal vasculitis.

Effects of duration of glucocorticoid therapy on relapse rate in antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitis: a meta-analysis

The authors concluded that longer courses of glucocorticoids in antibody-associated vasculitis were associated with fewer relapses. The conclusions appeared reliable, but poor-quality included studies and potential error and bias in the review processes suggest a need for caution.

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Summaries for consumers

Interventions for renal vasculitis in adults

Renal vasculitis presents as rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis which is a form of kidney disease that causes damage to the small structures (glomeruli) inside the kidneys that help filter waste and fluids from blood to form urine. The disease leads to a rapid loss of kidney function. Standard immunosuppression with steroids and cyclophosphamide (CPA) is recommended. The aim of this review was to evaluate the benefits and harms of any intervention for the treatment of renal vasculitis. Thirteen studies (702 patients) were identified. Plasma exchange reduces the risk of end‐stage kidney disease in patients presenting with severe acute kidney failure. The use of pulse CPA results in good remission rates but an increased risk of relapse. AZA is effective as maintenance therapy once remission has been achieved.

Treatments that suppress the immune system for neuropathy caused by non‐systemic vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels limited to those supplying the peripheral nerves)

Non‐systemic vasculitic neuropathy ('isolated vasculitic neuropathy') is a rare disease causing progressive, disabling, painful loss of sensation with muscle weakness in arms and legs that is often asymmetrical. The diagnosis is made through the finding of inflammation of blood vessels confined to nerve or muscle tissue, or both, and by excluding other conditions that could be the cause, such as systemic vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels affecting multiple organs in the body), rheumatic diseases, or any other cause for the neuropathy. This is an updated review. No randomised controlled clinical trials have been performed on which to base immunosuppressive treatment for non‐systemic vasculitic neuropathy. Blinded randomised trials of adding other immunosuppressive agents to corticosteroids are needed. Such trials will need sufficiently long follow‐up periods to evaluate treatment efficacy with disability outcome measures designed and validated for assessing change in immune‐mediated inflammatory neuropathies.

Hydralazine for treatment of high blood pressure

Hydralazine has been used for the treatment of high blood pressure since the 1950's. It is believed that hydralazine reduces blood pressure, however there are concerns due to the potential for this drug to cause adverse effects. The aim of this review was to determine the extent to which hydralazine reduces blood pressure, the nature of hydralazine’s adverse effect profile, and to determine the clinical impact of its use for hypertension. Unfortunately, the search revealed no randomized controlled trials which compared hydralazine to placebo as monotherapy for primary hypertension, therefore we are unable to make firm conclusions regarding its effects on blood pressure, adverse effects, or clinical outcomes. Some of the adverse effects related to hydralazine and that have been reported in the literature include reflex tachycardia, hemolytic anemia, vasculitis, glomerulonephritis, and a lupus‐like syndrome.

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Terms to know

A blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to tissues and organs in the body.
Blood Vessels
Tubes that carry blood to and from all parts of the body. The three main types of blood vessels are arteries, capillaries, and veins.
The smallest of the body's blood vessels. Oxygen and glucose pass through capillary walls and enter the cells. Waste products such as carbon dioxide pass back from the cells into the blood through capillaries.
The invasion and growth of germs in the body. The germs may be bacteria, viruses, yeast, fungi, or other microorganisms.
Redness, swelling, pain, and/or a feeling of heat in an area of the body. This is a protective reaction to injury, disease, or irritation of the tissues.

More about Vasculitis

Photo of an adult

Also called: Angiitis

See Also: Kawasaki Disease

Other terms to know: See all 5
Arteries, Blood Vessels, Capillaries

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