Arteritis is the term used for a group of disease that causes inflammation of the arteries. This inflammation affects the walls of the blood vessel delivering reduced blood to the different organs. This can occur as the result of an infection or from the autoimmune condition when the immune system mistakenly attacks its own body parts. There are several types of arteritis characterized with different symptoms, depending on which arteries are affected and the severity of damage incurred.
Giant cell Arteritis
Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is characterized by the inflammation of the blood vessel. In GCA, the blood vessels involved are the arteries of the head and scalp. It particularly involves the arteries over the temples hence it is also known as temporal arteritis. It primarily affects individuals over the age of 50 with the average onset being 72. Though the cause of GCA is unknown, it is associated with autoimmune disease when the body attacks the blood vessels. Other contributing factors may include genetics and environmental triggers. The common symptoms of GCA include joint pain, fever, headaches, vision problem that may result in permanent visual loss of either one of both the eyes. Diagnosis involves a blood test known as erythrocyte sedimentation rate that measures the level of inflammation by assessing the ‘fall’ level of red blood cells. Most GCA cases exhibit elevated level. A biopsy of the temporal artery is also common which can identify the inflammation of the artery. GCA is a curable disease with appropriate medication. The treatment should begin soon in order to reduce the risk of vision loss.
Takayasu arteritis (TA) is a disorder that causes inflammation of the blood vessel. This disease affects the aorta, the large artery of the body. TA can cause blockages and aneurysms (enlargement of the weak section of the artery). The inflammation can cause high blood pressure and may develop a stroke or heart failure. This is a rare disease with a frequency suggesting 2 or 3 cases among a million affected annually. Although the cause remains unknown, it is suggested that infections along with predisposing factors such as genes can develop this disease. The symptoms of TA occur in two stages. The first stage causes mild fever, weight loss and fatigue. The second stage occurs when the inflammation results in the narrowing of the arteries. Some of the stage two symptoms include weakness, dizziness, shortness of breath, memory problems, decreased pulse, visual changes, anemia and chest pain. Diagnosis may include x-rays of blood vessels, blood tests, magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) and doppler ultrasound. Treatment focuses on decreasing the inflammation and reducing the onset of complications. Treatment includes medications to suppress the immune system, to control inflammation and to regulate the immune system. In severe cases, surgery is required to bypass the arteries to resume the normal blood flow.