Vasculitis

Swelling in your blood vessels (arteries or veins) is called vasculitis. It happens when your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy blood vessels. This causes inflammation.

When blood vessels swell, the walls get thicker. That makes the blood vessel narrower and can cause a blockage or bulge in the wall (an aneurysm). Vasculitis can lead to serious health problems, including damage to your organs.

Vasculitis can happen anywhere in your body. It can you leave you feeling tired, feverish, or achy. You also might get symptoms in the part of your body that’s affected, like your:

  • Gut
  • Eyes
  • Ears
  • Hands
  • Feet
  • Lungs
  • Skin  

Vasculitis Treatment at UVA

Our experienced team of heart and vascular experts works with you on the best treatment options for your vasculitis. We've been recognized for our high-quality heart care, especially in aortic, valve, and bypass surgery.

Treating vasculitis involves controlling the swelling. What treatment looks like mostly depends on the part of your body that’s affected. We’ll also treat any other conditions caused by the swelling. Treatment might involve:

  • Medicines
  • Steroids to reduce swelling
  • Surgery

If steroids don't work, we can use cytotoxic medicines. These kill the cells that cause vasculitis. 

Swelling that is causing a blockage or aneurysm can be treated with surgery. Surgery can:

  • Open the blood vessel to let blood flow through
  • Reduce aneurysms

Vasculitis Types

Vasculitis has different names, depending on where it happens, including:

Diagnosing Vasculitis

To check for vasculitis, we most often use:

  • Blood tests
  • X-rays, CT scans and other kinds of imaging to see inside your body
  • Angiography (special X-rays that look at your blood vessels)
  • Biopsy