By | June 10, 2022

The term vasculitis describes some autoimmune diseases whose common characteristic is inflamed blood vessels. The symptoms and course of vasculitis can vary greatly depending on the severity of the disease.

What is vasculitis?

Vasculitis is inflammation in the blood vessels caused by reactions of the body’s immune system. It can be divided into a group of different autoimmune diseases.

There is primary vasculitis, which includes independent, inflammatory rheumatic diseases. These include large vessel vasculitis, medium vessel vasculitis, and small vessel vasculitis. For krukenberg tumor meaning, please visit

Secondary vasculitis, which is caused by infections, rheumatic diseases, medication or other autoimmune diseases, is also known. The different forms of vasculitis also differ in terms of their frequency.

Every year in Germany up to 20,000 people develop inflammation in the large vessels. Women are more affected than men. Secondary vasculitis is diagnosed in more than 10,000 people in Germany every year.


The causes of primary vasculitis are still unknown. Possible triggers of secondary vasculitis include viral infections, rheumatoid arthritis, malignant tumors, blood and lymphatic diseases, drugs, and the autoimmune disease systemic lupus erythematosus.

A disturbed function of the immune system is of importance for the causes. Antibodies directed against the body itself are responsible for some forms of vasculitis. These autoantibodies can fight against white blood cells, for example. Immune complexes can also cause vascular inflammation. In this case, the body’s own antibodies bind to drugs or bacterial particles and thus create immune complexes that are deposited in the walls of the vessels.

This damages the blood vessels. For example, hepatitis viruses are found in some variants of this disease. Depending on the extent of the vasculitis, reactions such as vascular occlusion or the formation of aneurysms, granulomas and ulcers are then triggered.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Vasculitis initially leads to non-specific symptoms, which then clearly expand. Above all, a subjective feeling of illness becomes noticeable in the early stages. Those affected are no longer able to perform in the usual way.

Fever and joint problems are also present. Sudden weight loss can occur. The inflammation of the blood vessels expands in a few days to include other symptoms – depending on which organ is affected. Pain and signs then appear locally. Patients are describing the attack on the heart, kidney, lungs and nervous system as extremely painful.

Muscle inflammation can develop in the heart, which is accompanied by constant chest pain. There is a risk of loss of function in the kidneys and lungs. People with kidney vasculitis have blood in their urine. If the lung tissue is inflamed, you cough up blood several times a day.

The nervous system becomes paralyzed. Cramps are also common. The head and the psyche suffer. A stroke is possible. If the skin is the largest organ affected, reddening of the skin and sometimes open skin areas occur. The reduced nutrient and oxygen supply proves its effect here.

The vasculitis causes rheumatic complaints in the muscles. In the stomach, if affected, there is constant abdominal pain. Sometimes vascular inflammation also occurs in the eyes. Then visual disturbances and an infestation of the dermis are possible.

Diagnosis & History

If vasculitis is suspected, different diagnostic methods are available. Laboratory tests are carried out because the value of the white blood cells, the erythrocyte sedimentation rate and the CRP value increase in the event of vascular inflammation.

Other characteristic blood values ​​can also point to a specific form of vasculitis. This includes values ​​such as ANCA, complement values ​​and viruses. An important part of the diagnosis is also a sample of the tissue or a biopsy. Depending on the severity of the vascular inflammation, an X-ray vascular display can also be used for diagnosis.

If medium and large vessels are diseased, characteristic changes can be detected with the help of X-ray contrast media. How the respective vascular inflammation develops depends crucially on its severity. However, with early diagnosis and consistent therapy, the symptoms of most forms of vasculitis can be alleviated.


Vasculitis can lead to many different symptoms, all of which have a very negative impact on the sufferer’s quality of life. The patients suffer from severe fever and also from sweating at night. This also leads to problems sleeping, so that most patients suffer from irritability or from depression and other mental upsets.

The disease also leads to severe weight loss and severe pain in the joints. A general weakness occurs, so that those affected feel permanently tired and exhausted. The resilience also decreases significantly. Patients are no longer able to perform strenuous physical activities or participate in sports. If the vasculitis occurs in a child or adolescent, the disease leads to a significant delay in development.

As a rule, the symptoms are alleviated with the help of medication, although a complete cure of the vasculitis cannot be achieved. There are no further complications. A healthy diet can also have a positive effect on the course of the disease. Whether vasculitis will lead to a reduced life expectancy in the patient cannot be universally predicted.

When should you go to the doctor?

In the case of vasculitis, the affected person is usually always dependent on treatment by a doctor. This disease cannot heal on its own, so the person affected should contact a doctor as soon as the first symptoms or signs of the disease appear. Only by starting treatment early can further complications and symptoms be avoided.

A doctor should be contacted for vasculitis if the affected person suffers from sudden weight loss and a high fever. The symptoms appear for no particular reason and do not go away on their own. Furthermore, severe pain in the chest can indicate this disease and should also be examined by a doctor. Most patients with vasculitis also have bloody urine or severe cramps in the muscles, which can also cause visual problems.

The vasculitis can be recognized by a general practitioner, whereby the treatment itself is usually carried out by a specialist and depends on the exact severity of the symptoms. It cannot generally be predicted whether the life expectancy of those affected will be reduced.

Treatment & Therapy

Treatment of vasculitis varies according to the severity and extent of the disease. Although it is often not curable, it can be treated very well. Strong drugs are often used for this if the organs or the life of the patient are threatened. In most cases, cortisone must be taken, the dose of which is slowly reduced.

In addition to this drug, immunosuppressants are often necessary. These are drugs that are supposed to slow down the overly aggressive working immune system. In severe forms of vasculitis, taking the immunosuppressive drug cyclophosphamide cannot be avoided. Due to the strength of the drugs, they are usually not taken for more than six months.

The patient then takes less aggressive medication to maintain improved health. The many side effects of drug treatment are prevented with the help of urine and blood tests and a conscious diet.

If the standard therapy fails, which happens in around 10% of all patients, new approaches to therapy are available. These include TNF blockers. Mild forms of vasculitis can be treated with less powerful drugs if diagnosed early.


There are currently no known reliable measures that could prevent vasculitis. However, if vascular inflammation already exists, it is important to identify potential recurrences at an early stage. Prompt treatment can prevent an unfavorable course. The first warning symptoms of vasculitis include rheumatic complaints, night sweats, red eyes and unexplained weight loss or fever.


Because vasculitis cannot be cured in most cases, but can flare up again and again, extensive follow-up measures are necessary for affected patients, which are based on the specific course of the disease and the affected vessels. The core of the aftercare treatment is the administration of anti-inflammatory drugs such as cortisone.

So-called biologicals, i.e. modern immune-modulating drugs, have also been playing an increasingly important role for some time now. This medication in aftercare aims to maintain the therapeutic success achieved up to that point and to prevent the vasculitis from flaring up again. Depending on the course of therapy, other medications that suppress the patient’s immune system can also be used under close medical supervision.

Depending on the type of vessel affected, aftercare can also be extended, for example to counteract heart diseases. In many cases, compression therapy is also used. Then affected patients are given up to wear compression stockings. This is intended to improve blood circulation in the vessels, which can have a multiple positive effect on vasculitis.

On the one hand, compression therapy prevents further deposits on the walls of the vessels. On the other hand, the compression also has a beneficial effect on the healing process in connection with existing foci of inflammation.

You can do that yourself

Depending on the extent and localization of the vasculitis, various therapeutic measures are available. Medical treatment, which always includes the administration of medication, can be supported by various self-help measures.

Small vessel vasculitis is treated with immunosuppressants, cytostatics, antibodies, and steroids. It is important to note the side effects and interactions in a medication diary and to inform the doctor about the symptoms. In the event of severe side effects, the treatment must be discontinued or switched to another preparation. In the case of vasculitis of medium-sized and large vessels, vascular wall prostheses may have to be used. Patients are asked to rest and rest. Strenuous physical activity should be avoided, although regular aqua jogging or swimming can aid healing.

In addition, the diet should be changed. An anti-inflammatory diet with vegetable oils, little meat and a high-protein diet inhibits the spread of internal inflammation. Specific measures apply to special forms of vasculitis. In the case of endangiitis obliterans, nicotine must be avoided. It is also important to be informed about risks such as stroke, heart attack or kidney failure. In the event of a medical emergency, the emergency services must be called immediately.