Vasculitis is a general term that means inflammation of blood vessels. More than 20 unique diseases are classified as vasculitis. These diseases are uncommon and may affect any blood vessel in the body. Blood vessel inflammation is the pathological foundation for these diseases. Vasculitis can affect any person at anytime and causes damage by reducing blood flow to the affected organ. Vasculitis can affect one or multiple organs.

What are the causes of vasculitis?

The cause for most vasculitis diseases is unknown; however, causes that are known include medications, infections or cancer. Vasculitis may be temporary, lasting only as long as a patient is exposed to a causative agent, or it may be chronic, requiring medicine to control the disease.

Although more than 20 different vasculitis syndromes exist, each disorder is rare when compared to the prevalence of more common diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease. Racial and gender predilections do occur with some types of vasculitis.

What are the treatments for vasculitis?

Removal of an offending agent or treatment of an underlying systemic disorder is the initial approach to treatment of some types of vasculitis. Prednisone with or without an additional immunosuppressant medication or biologic agent are often the drugs of choice for most vasculitides. Due to the rarity of these diseases, the diagnosis and treatment is often delayed. Although current therapies have substantially reduced the mortality rate associated with some vasculitides, morbidity due to disease damage or medication toxicity is an increasing problem. For example, nearly one third of patients with granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA or Wegener’s granulomatosis) will develop permanent disability secondary to their disease over a period of five years. Furthermore, 1,500 people are hospitalized each year with GPA. The mortality rate for those admitted with GPA is approximately 11 percent. The University of Utah Vasculitis Clinic was created in 2007 to provide expert care for patients afflicted with these unique diseases.