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Preparing for side effects

Stage 1: Bringing you to remission. The aim is to get the disease under control. An immunosuppressive drug for example cyclophosphamide may be used to dampen down the immune system, which is attacking the blood vessels. Steroid tablets or injections will also be used in this stage. Stage 2 Keeping you in remissions. Once the condition is in remission, the aim is to keep it under control.

Drugs for example azathioprine , methotrexate or mycophenolate may be used with steroids. Stage 3: Following up and withdrawing therapy.

The aim at this stage is to gradually reduce your medications while still keeping the disease under control. In some types of vasculitis such as granulomatosis with polyangiitis , an infection may trigger a relapse. You may therefore be given antibacterial drugs such as co-trimoxazole to protect against this. These drugs can also help to protect against the increased risk of infection caused by the stronger immunosuppressive drugs. Cyclophosphamide, for example, can cause bleeding from the bladder, hair thinning and an increased risk of infection.

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Unfortunately, there's also a significant risk that it can reduce fertility in both men and women. Because of these risks, cyclophosphamide will be stopped or exchanged for a different immunosuppressive drug as soon as your vasculitis is controlled. This is usually azathioprine, but methotrexate or mycopheonlate might be used instead.

Rituximab , a biological therapy given by intravenous infusion, can also help to encourage remission in some types of vasculitis. If you do need treatment then it's very important that you follow your doctor's instructions carefully. It's important to learn and understand as much as you can about your illness and the treatment options; you can discuss alternative treatment options with your medical team. Vasculitis varies from one person to the next and from one type of vasculitis to another.

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It's important to speak to your doctor or other healthcare professional about any new symptoms you may have. Vasculitis can cause tiredness, and it's important to rest when you need to. However, you should also try to keep muscles and joints healthy by exercising. Start gently and gradually increase the amount of exercise you do. Include some weight-bearing exercise anything that involves walking or running. Swimming is also recommended. Ask your doctor for advice on how much exercise you should expect to be able to do.

A healthy, low-fat, nutritious and balanced diet is important for everyone, but if you're on steroids it's particularly important because these can increase your appetite and cause weight gain. Try not to over eat, and cut down on fatty and sugary foods and others which are particularly high in calories. Instead, eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and starchy foods like potatoes and wholemeal bread, pasta and rice. Drinking plenty of water is helpful. It's healthy for everyone not to drink more than the recommended units of alcohol a week; 14 a week for both men and women.

Having at least two alcohol-free days is advisable, but not if that means you then save up all your units to drink in one go. If you're taking steroids then you're more at risk of osteoporosis , but having plenty of calcium in your diet is important to help prevent this from developing. Foods that are good sources of calcium include tinned sardines with bones , skimmed milk, yoghurt and certain vegetables such as broccoli. We explain which foods are most likely to help and how to lose weight if you need to.

Find out more about exercising with arthritis and what types of exercises are beneficial for certain conditions. Smoking makes the blood vessels become narrower inside and can therefore make vasculitis symptoms worse.

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Smoking can also worsen lung inflammation. It's therefore very important to try to stop smoking. This will also improve any symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon.

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If you want to stop smoking see your doctor who will be able to give you advice about quitting. If your fingers or toes turn blue in response to the cold, this may be due to Raynaud's phenomenon. Wearing warm clothes, including warm socks and gloves, should improve blood circulation to your hands and feet by helping to keep the blood vessels open.

We use cookies to give you the best experience. By continuing to browse this site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Our new helpline: Call us for free information, help and advice on your type of arthritis. I'm AVA, the Arthritis Virtual Assistant, and I'm being trained by Versus Arthritis to give you general information about your condition and how to manage your symptoms.

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Versus Arthritis About arthritis Conditions Vasculitis. Share on Facebook Tweet LinkedIn. What is vasculitis? There are three types of blood vessel which can be affected by vasculitis: arteries — take blood from the heart to different parts of the body such as organs for example kidneys and tissues for example skin veins — take blood back to the heart capillaries — tiny vessels between the arteries and the veins where oxygen and other materials pass from the blood into the tissues.

Who gets it? The different types of vasculitis tend to affect different age groups, for example: GCA temporal arteritis is much more common in people over 50, and it's fairly common for it to be associated with a condition called polymyalgia rheumatica PMR. Takayasu arteritis TA tends to affect younger Asian women. IgA vasculitis is much more common in children than in adults.

Kawasaki disease only affects children under five. Symptoms When any part of your body is inflamed, it swells and is uncomfortable or painful. Other symptoms vary according to which part of the body is affected, for example: Skin — vasculitis in the skin causes spots that can burst, leaving open sores ulcers. When vasculitis only affects the skin, long-term effects aren't usually serious, and symptoms normally clear up once inflammation has settled.

Nose — vasculitis here causes crusting inside the nose and nosebleeds. Sometimes the shape of the nose can change.

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Fingers and toes — some people with vasculitis experience Raynaud's phenomenon , where the fingers or toes turn white or blue and may tingle or hurt when exposed to cold conditions. It's very important to see a doctor quickly if this happens. Nerves — inflammation of the nerves can cause tingling pins and needles , pain and burning sensations or weakness in the arms and legs.

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Joints — vasculitis can cause joint pain or swelling. Muscles — inflammation here causes muscle aches, and eventually your muscles could become weak. Lungs — inflammation of the lungs causes coughing and shortness of breath. Brain — occasionally the blood vessels in the brain can be affected, causing problems like strokes. Kidneys — when vasculitis affects the kidneys there may be problems passing urine or blood in the urine. Vasculitis of the kidneys can be dangerous as symptoms may not appear until the kidneys have been damaged.

In severe cases treatment on an artificial kidney dialysis machine may be necessary. Causes There's no single cause of vasculitis, and in most cases the exact cause is unknown. How will vasculitis affect me? Who diagnoses and treats vasculitis? Diagnosis If you think you may be developing vasculitis you must see your doctor as soon as possible. What tests are there? Blood tests for antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies ANCA are important in the diagnosis of some types of vasculitis, particularly: granulomatosis with polyangiitis eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis microscopic polyangiitis.

Liver function tests may also be carried out to check how your liver is working. People with eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis, granulomatosis with polyangiitis or microscopic polyangiitis will have regular urine tests for blood and protein. Echocardiograms and electrocardiograms can be used to assess the heart. An echocardiogram is a special ultrasound test and an electrocardiogram ECG is an electrical test. A biopsy may be needed to confirm whether the kidneys, muscles, skin or lungs are affected by vasculitis.

A small piece of tissue is removed from the organ in question for examination or testing in a laboratory. An ear, nose and throat ENT assessment may be needed for people with granulomatosis with polyangiitis who have symptoms in these parts of the body.

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