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Clinical Services at Rush Rush Vasculitis Clinic - FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

What is vasculitis?
What causes vasculitis?
Is vasculitis contagious?
Is vasculitis curable?
Is vasculitis hereditary? Are my children at risk of getting vasculitis?
Will my vasculitis return?
What can I do to prevent flares?
Should I be on a particular diet?
Do vitamins help?
Can I receive the flu shot or other shots?
How can I talk to other patients with vasculitis?
What is the life expectancy in vasculitis?


What is vasculitis?

Vasculitis (plural "vasculitides") is inflammation of the blood vessels. Vascul means blood vessels and itis means "inflammation." (In the same way, appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix.) The vessels are conduits that supply blood to the different organs of the body such as the kidneys, muscles, skin, brain, lungs, etc. When vessels get inflamed, they can either dilate or collapse, leading to loss of blood supply. This can result in organ damage and loss of function.

What causes vasculitis?

Vasculitis is a rare autoimmune condition caused by overstimulation and activation of the immune system. What triggers the immune system to become activated remains unknown. However, most researchers agree that it is probably a combination of an infectious process and genetic predisposition. For instance, hepatitis C is believed to cause cryoglobulinemic vasculitis, and hepatitis B may cause polyarteritis nodosa. However, not all patients with hepatitis C or B will develop vasculitis.

Is vasculitis contagious?

No. Until now, vasculitis has not been shown to be contagious. Having vasculitis does not pose any risk to your loved ones or people with whom you have close contact. However, infections that cause vasculitis or that may result from the immunosuppressive treatment of vasculitis can be contagious.

Is vasculitis curable?

Vasculitis is a treatable condition, but it is not curable. Some types of vasculitis such as Henoch-Schönlein purpura may spontaneously resolve and never recur. Research is being undertaken to find a cure for vasculitis. Your participation in research may help us find a cure.

Is vasculitis hereditary? Are my children at risk of getting vasculitis?

Vasculitis is not hereditary in the genetic sense of the term. However, there are family clusters of vasculitides reported in the medical literature, but these are rare. On the other hand, researchers believe that a genetic predisposition is required to develop vasculitis. Research studies are being conducted to unveil these genetic mutations.

Will my vasculitis return?

Some types of vasculitis, such as Henoch-Schönlein purpura, are self-limited and will never return. Other types will disappear as soon as the cause is removed, like treating the infection or stopping the medication in the case of hypersensitivity vasculitis. Another example is smoking cessation in Buerger’s disease. Other forms of vasculitides like granulomatosis with polyangiitis, microscopic polyangiitis, Churg-Strauss syndrome, Takayasu’s disease and giant cell arteritis may unfortunately recur even after induction and maintenance of remission. These "flares" are treated by adding corticosteroids, increasing the dose of medications, or changing therapy.

What can I do to prevent flares?

To date, there are no confirmed methods to prevent disease flares. However, staying healthy through exercising, eating a healthy diet, avoiding smoking and following your doctor’s instructions may help prevent flares and reduce disease complications. We recommend monitoring the symptoms/signs and using blood, urine and imaging to determine disease activity and potential flares. Therefore, it is of critical importance to follow up with your doctor and have periodic check-ups.

Should I be on a particular diet?

Currently there is no evidence that a particular diet or avoiding "special foods" will decrease the susceptibility or affect the course of vasculitis. Generally, we recommend a healthy, well-balanced diet, smoking cessation if you smoke and exercising to decrease cardiac risks. In addition, keeping a diet that is low in carbohydrates and calories is recommended for patients taking certain medications like corticosteroids. For patients who have other conditions like hypertension, a low-salt diet is recommended, or for those who have kidney failure, a low-protein and low-potassium diet is prescribed. Finally, staying well-hydrated may help reduce some of the toxicities seen with immunosuppressive medications like Cytoxan.

Do vitamins help?

Vitamins have not been shown to be beneficial in treating or preventing vasculitis. However, some vitamins are prescribed with certain immunosuppressive medications to reduce toxicity, like folic acid (Vitamin B9) with methotrexate. We do not recommend using over-the-counter supplements or herbs, as these drugs are unregulated and poorly tested and may interact with prescribed medications.

Can I receive the flu shot or other shots?

Yes, but only the injectable form of the flu vaccine. If you are on immunosuppressive medications, you should not get the nasal spray form of either the seasonal flu or the H1N1 virus vaccines. The spray form is a live attenuated virus that may lead to the actual flu disease if your immune system is compromised by medications. By the same token, you should not get any vaccine that is labeled "live attenuated," e.g., the shingles vaccine, if you are on immunosuppressive therapy. These vaccines have to be administered prior to initiating therapy.

In addition, we recommend getting the pneumonia vaccine (Pneumovax) to protect you from getting the common form of pneumonia.

How can I talk to other patients with vasculitis?

You can find a list of support groups and the Vasculitis Foundation local chapters on the Vasculitis Foundation website. Sharing your story or hearing the stories of other patients who have a similar condition and are undergoing similar treatment may help you and help others.

What is the life expectancy in vasculitis?

In most cases of vasculitis the prognosis is considered generally good. With the advances in disease understanding, diagnostic approaches and treatment, patients affected by vasculitis are able to lead normal lives.

 


   

 





Contact Name
Rush Vasculitis Clinic
Contact Phone
(312) 563-2800
Contact E-mail
contact_rush@rush.edu


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