Vasculitis causes blood vessel inflammation. The disease can affect any blood vessel, resulting in problems that can affect any organ. Some types of vasculitis are mild, but many cause serious health problems requiring medical care throughout your lifetime.

Early treatment from Behnam Khaleghi, MD, at Pacific Rheumatology Medical Center is essential to ease symptoms, put the disease in remission, and prevent life-threatening complications. Here, we explain the treatments that are used to manage vasculitis.

Vasculitis explained

Vasculitis refers to a large group of diseases that cause blood vessel inflammation. Without treatment, ongoing inflammation damages the affected artery or vein and interferes with blood flow.

The reduced blood supply leads to different symptoms, depending on which organ or tissue receives oxygen-rich blood from the affected vessel. A few of the most common symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Jaw pain
  • Vision loss or double vision
  • Arm pain and weakness
  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Skin rashes or purple-colored spots
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Fatigue

Vasculitis affects people of all ages and arises from several different causes. Many types of vasculitis develop when your immune system mistakenly attacks blood vessels.

Infections and chronic diseases, such as hepatitis, lupusrheumatoid arthritis, and Sjögren’s syndrome often cause vasculitis. You can also develop drug-induced vasculitis, which is a hypersensitivity or allergic reaction to medications.

Vasculitis treatments

If we can identify an underlying cause, such as an infection or a medication, we treat the condition or find an alternative to the medicine. Taking care of the cause usually heals your vasculitis.

Otherwise, vasculitis treatment focuses on reducing inflammation and keeping the disease in remission. To accomplish these goals, we prescribe medications, such as steroids, immunosuppressants, and biologics, including immunoglobulins.

Corticosteroids (glucocorticoids or steroids)

Steroids are powerful anti-inflammatory medications that we often use as the first line of treatment for vasculitis. Though they’re very effective, they also pose the risk of side effects if you take them for a long time.

We lower your risk by using the smallest effective dose and combining them with steroid-sparing medications. Steroid-sparing medicines also control inflammation and suppress immune system activity, allowing us to keep your steroid dose low.

Immunosuppressive medications

Since many types of vasculitis are caused by an overactive immune system, you may need medications that inhibit or prevent immune activity.

In addition to reducing inflammation, corticosteroids also help suppress your immune system. However, we may prescribe other immunosuppressants, such as methotrexate, azathioprine, and cyclophosphamide.

Biologic medications

Biologics contain substances made by living cells, whether from humans, animals, or microorganisms. These complex medicines contain proteins that control cellular activities, with each biologic having a specific target. The biologics used for vasculitis work by blocking immune system cells that damage your blood vessels.

Several biologics are available to treat severe cases of certain types of vasculitis. If you need this treatment, your biologic medication is given through an intravenous (IV) infusion or injection because the proteins would be destroyed in your digestive tract.

Immunoglobulin (IVIG)

IVIG is a biologic medication, but unlike other biologics, immunoglobulins are also naturally produced by your immune system. Immunoglobulins are antibodies created to identify viruses, bacteria, and other harmful substances. Antibodies recognize the substance every time it enters your body, then they either neutralize it or activate other immune cells to destroy it.

IVIG infusions are used to treat people with antibody deficiencies. We also prescribe IVIG infusions to reduce inflammation and stop the immune system from attacking your blood vessels.

If you have questions about vasculitis treatments, call one of our offices in Tustin or Laguna Hills, California, or book a consultation online.

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