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pl. vasculitides [L. vasculum, small vessel + -itis]
Inflammation of blood vessels.
It is usually caused by deposition of antigen-antibody immune complexes or other immune-mediated events. Vasculitis due to immune complexes is seen in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis B and C, serum sickness, and drug reactions. Vasculitis found in patients with inflammatory bowel disease, Wegener granulomatosis, graft rejection, polyarthritis nodosa, and temporal arteritis involves other immune-mediated processes. Vasculitis often affects the renal glomeruli, joints, cerebral vessels, testes, or respiratory system.
Vasculitis can affect large, medium-sized, and small blood vessels. When it is found in small blood vessels in the skin, characteristic rashes may be seen. Vasculitis is loosely classified by the size of the vessel involved. Takayasu and giant cell arteritis involve large arteries, including the aorta and carotids. Polyarteritis nodosa and Kawasaki disease involve medium-sized vessels; Wegener granulomatosis, Henoch-Schönlein purpura, and microscopic polyangiitis involve small vessels, particularly in the kidney and respiratory tract.
SYN: SEE: angiitis
VASCULITIS ; SEE: autoimmune disease; SEE: immune complex
Although fever, pain, and malaise are common, the inflammatory changes of the blood vessels are seen primarily through the signs and symptoms associated with the organ or tissues involved. Vasculitis in superficial vessels may present as painful nodules. Inflammation of the glomerular capillaries of the kidney in small vessel vasculitis may produce glomerulonephritis and decreased renal function. When blood vessels of the respiratory tract are involved, pneumonitis, sinusitis, and ulceration of the nasopharynx may result. Involvement of vessels in the heart leads to coronary artery disease and aneurysms.
Immunosuppressive therapy (with drugs such as cyclophosphamide and prednisone, or monoclonal antibodies such as rituximab) is used to treat most forms of autoimmune-mediated vasculitis.