If you are looking for general information regarding Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), please see my previous article titled Complications of Rheumatoid Arthritis: An Overview, before preceding here.
What is Vasculitis and What Does it Do?
When blood vessels, capillaries, veins, or arteries become inflamed, the condition is said to be Vasculitis. Due to the inflammation, the affected blood vessels, can change in shape. The change can result in the weakening, or narrowing of the blood vessels, which in turn, leads to decreased blood flow. Alternately, sometimes the blood vessel develops a bulge, which can lead to an aneurysm. If these changes are allowed to continue, organs and/or tissue may suffer irreversible damaging consequences. Death is also a possibility. Let's explore this dangerous condition further.
Possible Signs and Symptoms
If you could lay out all of the blood vessels in your body, from end to end, they could cover almost 60,000 miles (1). Any of these blood vessels may develop Vasculitis, so it's no wonder that the symptoms could widely vary, depending on the area of the body that's being affected. General symptoms may consist of fever, loss of appetite, decrease in weight, or pain in the muscles or joints. Following years of tenaciously, active RA, sufferers commonly have a particular sign of Vasculitis. The most common indication (that a patient has this condition) is the evidence of areas of decaying or dead tissue along the nailbeds (2). The tissue becomes black and begins to rot away.
How Rheumatoid Arthritis Can Lead to Vasculitis
The exact cause of Vasculitis is unknown. However, in the case of RA, the immune system is compromised. Then, Vasculitis becomes a possible secondary illness, or complication, resulting from the underlying condition of RA.
Treatment for Vasculitis
If you are found to have Vasculitis, treatment may need to be aggressive if your vital organs are involved. The best treatment for Vasculitis, as with most illnesses, is prevention. Controlling RA by decreasing the inflammation is an excellent step to take, to prevent complications like Vasculitis. Traditional medications, like Corticosteroids, Chemotherapeutic drugs and NSAIDs, may be helpful, but often only "cover up" the problem or they may have unhealthy side effects. This article is the second segment, of a five part series, designed to enlighten our readers about some of the complications of Rheumatoid arthritis. The next installment will feature informative material about Tendinitis.