Vasculitis is a general term for a group of about 20 disorders that involve inflammation in the blood vessels. Although these diseases are similar in some ways, they vary depending on the organs and blood vessels affected. When blood vessels become inflamed, they can become weakened, stretch and increase in size, causing an aneurysm. At other times, they may become inflamed and narrowed, partially or completely eliminating blood supply to tissues. If other blood vessels are not able to carry blood to that area, the tissue will die.
Our Approach to Vasculitis
UCSF provides comprehensive evaluations and advanced care for all forms of vasculitis. Because vasculitis can affect virtually any organ system in the body, our team includes many types of doctors, such as rheumatologists, dermatologists, nephrologists, neuromuscular specialists, ophthalmologists and pulmonologists.
Treatments vary depending on the type of vasculitis and organs affected, but the plan will usually include medications to suppress the immune system, which plays a key role in the disease.
In addition to caring for patients, our providers conduct clinical trials to evaluate potential new diagnostic tools and treatments for vasculitis. Interested patients may have the option to receive investigational treatments by participating in clinical trials.
Awards & recognition
Among the top hospitals in the nation
Best in California and No. 7 in the nation for rheumatology
Signs & symptoms
Symptoms of vasculitis differ depending on the blood vessels involved. However, many patients with vasculitis feel sick and experience fevers, weight loss, fatigue, a rapid pulse and a range of aches and pains that are difficult to pinpoint. In addition, vasculitis can affect virtually every organ system in the body, including the skin, joints, lungs, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, blood, sinuses, nose and ears, eyes, brain and nerves.
The causes of most forms of vasculitis are unknown. However, it has been shown that the immune system plays a critical role in the tissue damage and that it may be related to other diseases of the immune system, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus or Sjögren's syndrome.
Typically your doctor will conduct a variety of tests to confirm a vasculitis diagnosis. Those tests may include:
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- Angiogram (X-ray of your blood vessels)
- Vessel biopsy
Treatment depends on the type of vasculitis and the organs affected, and usually includes medications that suppress parts of the immune system. Examples include cyclophosphamide, azathioprine, methotrexate and prednisone. These medications can cause many side effects, which your doctor will discuss with you.
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.