Vasculitis is the inflammation of one or more blood vessels. Examples of blood vessels include arteries, veins, and capillaries. When inflamed, a blood vessel’s walls thicken, reducing or preventing blood flow.
There are many types of vasculitis. When rheumatoid arthritis is not well managed or goes untreated, a type of vasculitis called rheumatoid vasculitis may develop.
Rheumatoid vasculitis may affect one or more areas of the body, including but not limited to the:
- Hands and feet
- Digestive system
- Lungs and other internal organs
Signs and symptoms vary depending on the part of the body affected. For example, vasculitis can cause a rash or ulcers on the skin, the sensation of pins and needles in the feet, and shortness of breath in the lungs.
Other facts about rheumatoid vasculitis include:
- It is rare for rheumatoid vasculitis to occur when RA is in remission1
- When vasculitis is moderate, severe, or chronic, the affected area will not get enough blood, causing the tissue to be damaged and/or die
- Signs and symptoms occur when tissue is damaged or dying
There are treatments for vasculitis. Whether or not signs and symptoms can be reduced or completely reversed will depend on the severity of tissue damage and other factors.
The best way to prevent rheumatoid vasculitis is to have an effective treatment plan for rheumatoid arthritis and stick to it. Keep in mind, however, that not all signs of vasculitis mean that RA treatment must be changed. A rheumatologist or other health care practitioner will make recommendations based on a patient’s unique health circumstances.