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Inflamed Blood Vessels: Everything You Need to Know About Vasculitis

Medically reviewed by Kristina Campos, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos · Updated Oct 26, 2021

Inflamed Blood Vessels: Everything You Need to Know About Vasculitis

Vasculitis is the collective term for several conditions that cause the inflammation of the blood vessels. Other terms used for them are angiitis and arteritis. Aside from the inflammation of the blood vessels, this can also lead to other conditions.

What Is Vasculitis?

Vasculitis is a condition where the blood vessels become inflamed. The inflammation causes the blood vessels to become enlarged and results in the restriction of blood flow. The restriction of blood flow may result in damage to the organs that are affected.

There are many types of vasculitis. It may affect a single organ, or may also target multiple parts of the body. The condition can be short-term or long-term.

Doctors classify vasculitis into three types. These are based on the sizes of the affected blood vessels:

  • Large vasculitis.  Takayasu’s arteritis and temporal arteritis would fall under this type.
  • Medium vasculitis. An example of this is Buerger’s disease.
  • Small vasculitis. Behcet’s syndrome and cutaneous vasculitis fall under this type.

What Are the Causes of Vasculitis?

The exact mechanisms that occur in these diseases are unknown.

There is a possibility that it might be some form of allergic reaction, or may be brought about by certain types of medication. It is also possible that an infection triggers an abnormal response from the immune system, which leads to blood vessels getting damaged.

The condition may also be connected to diseases of the immune system like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Vasculitis Symptoms

General symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Feeling of tiredness
  • Weight loss

Other symptoms will depend on which part of the body is affected:

Digestive System

If your digestive system is affected, you may experience some pain right after you eat. It is possible that you may develop ulcers, which will result in blood in the stool.


Affected ears may cause dizziness and even hearing loss.


This condition may make your eyes look red and feel itchy. In more serious cases, those affected may experience temporary and even permanent blindness in one or both eyes.

Hands and feet

Some types of vasculitis can cause numbness or weakness in one hand or foot. The condition may cause the palm or the bottom of the foot to swell up.


Affected lungs may cause shortness of breath. In more serious cases, patients may even cough up blood.


Vasculitis may cause bleeding under the skin, which appears as red spots.

What Are the Complications of Vasculitis?

Vasculitis can lead to some very serious complications. Weak blood vessels may cause an aneurysm. Blood vessels may also burst, leading to bleeding.

Narrowed or inflamed blood vessels may block blood flow. If the affected area does not have other vessels supplying blood to the area, the tissues there will die. This can happen in any part of the body.

Diagnosing Vasculitis

Your doctor will ask about your medical history and conduct a medical exam. Tests look for inflammation. They also rule out the possibility that other conditions are causing the symptoms

Tests for diagnosing this condition may include:

  • Blood tests looking for certain blood cells and antibodies that indicate the disorder.
  • Urine tests to check for kidney damage.
  • Imaging tests like X-rays, MRI scans, angiograms, or doppler ultrasounds to spot inflammations in the blood vessels.
  • Echocardiogram tests to determine how well your heart is functioning.
  • Biopsies, which involve taking a sample of tissue from organs and blood vessels to look for signs of damage.

The test that your doctor will recommend will depend on the symptoms that you are showing.

Vasculitis Treatment

Doctors will suggest treatment depending on the affected organ. The disorder sometimes goes away on its own, although doctors may give medications to relieve symptoms.

Some patients will require treatment, especially if vasculitis affects crucial organs like the kidneys, heart, or lungs.

Your doctor may give you steroids to counter the inflammation. They will monitor you for side effects during the course of treatment. Other medications can slow down the immune system, or may block the protein that causes inflammation.

Key Takeaway

Vasculitis can be a serious condition. It affects your blood vessels, which plays a very important role in keeping the body healthy. Seek medical help immediately if you feel any of the symptoms.

Learn about Other Blood Disorders here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Kristina Campos, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos · Updated Oct 26, 2021

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