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What are the Different Types of Vasculitis Syndrome?

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  • Written By: A.E. Freeman
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2016
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There are a number of types of vasculitis syndrome. Vasculitis syndromes are usually uncommon and cause inflammation of the arteries and blood vessels in the body. Some types of vasculitis syndrome, such as giant cell arteritis, Behçet's syndrome, and Takayasu's arteritis, affect only the larger blood vessels. Microscopic polyangiitis and Churg-Strauss syndrome affect the smaller blood vessels. Some forms of vasculitis syndrome affect the skin or joints as well.

Behçet's syndrome is a type of vasculitis syndrome that typically appears when a person is young, in his 20s or 30s. It is more common in men than in women. The disorder can cause inflammation of a number of organ systems, from the blood vessels to the genitals to the eyes.

A common initial symptom of Behçet's is an ulcer in the mouth. Inflammation of the eye from Behçet's can lead to blindness if not taken care of. There is no cure for Behçet's, but most patients' symptoms respond to corticosteroids.

Giant cell arteritis, another type of vasculitis syndrome, involves inflammation of the arteries in a person's head. A headache, particularly pain in the temples, and blurry vision are the most frequent symptoms of the condition. Women more than age 50 are at the most risk for giant cell arteritis, especially if they have polymyalgia rheumatica, a type of vasculitis that causes stiffness in the hips and neck.

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Takayasu's arteritis is a rare condition that mostly affects young women less than age 40 and young girls. The disease causes damage to the aorta and other large or medium-sized blood vessels. Initial symptoms of Takayasu's arteritis involve fatigue and rapid unexplained weight loss. As the disease progresses, a woman may develop high blood pressure, a diminished pulse, and chest pain. Corticosteroids can often treat symptoms, though in some cases bypass surgery may be needed to improve blood flow and reduce symptoms.

When a person has Churg-Strauss syndrome, another type of vasculitis syndrome, inflammation of the smaller blood vessels restricts the flow of blood to organs such as the lungs. A common symptom of Churg-Strauss syndrome is asthma, which typically appears years before any other symptoms. In later stages of the disease, a person will have elevated levels of eosinophils, a type of white blood cell. In the final stage of the illness, blood vessels throughout the body become inflamed, leading to neuropathy, joint pain, and skin rashes, among other symptoms. There is no cure for Churg-Strauss syndrome, but corticosteroids and other immunosuppressive medications may ease a person's symptoms.

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