Vasculitis is an inflammation of the blood vessels caused when the immune system mistakes blood vessels for foreign invaders and mounts an attack. The resulting inflammation causes arteries to narrow, restricting blood flow to vital organs.
Because red blood cells are the mechanism that delivers oxygen throughout the body, restricted blood flow reduces the amount of oxygen received which may result in serious damage to vital organs, and in some cases, death.
Vasculitis comes in various forms, some of which are not so serious and may last only a short time. Other forms may be serious, chronic life-long conditions. Some types of vasculitis may become life-threatening.
Here, we’ll take a look at five forms of vasculitis. This list is not meant to be exhaustive but simply to provide information on a few common vasculitis types.
Leukocytoclastic vasculitis is often referred to as hypersensitivity vasculitis, allergic vasculitis, or cutaneous vasculitis. Caused by an allergic reaction to medication or infection, this form of vasculitis affects the surface of the skin.
It’s characterized by a rash -- red spots -- that appear on the lower legs. Sometimes, the rash appears on the backs of people who are restricted to bed.
If the root cause is an allergic reaction to medication, this form of vasculitis often goes away once the offending medication is stopped. Some cases may require treatment with corticosteroids or other anti-inflammatory drugs.
Central Nervous System (CNS) Vasculitis
CNS vasculitis affects medium-sized blood vessels and is generally a result of “systemic” vasculitis, meaning that the vasculitis affects your entire system. This type of vasculitis includes any type of vasculitis that affects the central nervous system such as cerebral vasculitis, Behcet’s disease, Cogan’s syndrome, or Wegener's granulomatosis.
Various rheumatologic diseases such as lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and Lyme disease may also be contributing factors to CNS.