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Vasculitis: An Overview

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Vasculitis related image Photo: Getty Images

Do you remember your grammar lessons from grade school and how the teacher drilled you on the meanings of the multitude of prefixes and suffixes common to the English language, and how they changed the meaning of the root word?

I still remember gnawing my fingers to the nub before test day trying to keep the various meanings straight! But, the time spent memorizing the meanings of these endings and beginnings certainly proved to be time well spent over the years.

In many ways, the terminology used by the medical profession can be thought of as its own language. I like to refer to it as the “language” of medicine. Just as we have prefixes and suffixes with distinct meanings, the language of medicine also uses unique prefixes and suffixes to enhance and expand the meanings of root conditions.

One of the commonly used suffixes in medicine is “-itis.” Anytime you see the ending -itis attached to a condition, you can be certain that some type of inflammation is involved. Such is the case with vasculitis.

What is vasculitis?
The term “vascular” generally refers to blood vessels. The addition of the suffix –itis, or vasculitis, forms the term used to describe inflammation of the vessels that carry blood throughout the body.

What causes vasculitis?
Vasculitis is caused when the body treats the affected blood vessels as if they are a virus, bacteria, or other foreign object that doesn’t belong. Once blood vessels have been identified as foreign invaders, the immune system kicks in and attacks, seeking to rid the body of the “bad” blood vessels. The result is inflammation and a thickening or narrowing of the blood vessels which reduces the amount of blood which the vessels are able to deliver.

The cause of vasculitis isn’t always clear. Sometimes, as in the case of primary vasculitis, there is no apparent cause. In other cases, there may be an underlying condition or disease which triggers vasculitis. When an underlying cause is identified, it’s referred to as secondary vasculitis.

Causes of secondary vasculitis include conditions or disease such as:

• Infections – such as hepatitis C

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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