Vasculitis is an inflammation of the blood vessel system, which includes the veins, arteries, and capillaries. Vasculitis may affect blood vessels of any type, size, or location, and therefore can cause dysfunction in any organ system, including the central and peripheral nervous system. Peripheral neuropathy may occur as a result of having vasculitis.

Vasculitis can be caused by infection of the blood vessel walls or an immune or “allergic” reaction in the vessel wall. The first cause is rare. When it occurs, bacteria, viruses or fungi infect the blood vessel. White blood cells move in to destroy the infectious agents and damage the blood vessel in the process. This is a serious condition and requires prompt antibiotic treatment.

The second cause of vasculitis, an immune reaction, is more common. Substances that cause allergic relations are called “antigens.” They cause the body to make proteins called “antibodies” which bind to the antigen for the purpose of getting rid of it. Antigen and antibody bound together are called “immune complexes.” Two primary ways in which immune complexes destroy antigens are by attracting white blood cells to digest the antigen, and by activating other body substances to help destroy the antigens.

The causes of most forms of vasculitis remain unknown. One kind of vasculitis that is not infrequently associated with peripheral neuropathy is polyarteritis nodosa. In addition, sarcoidosis can cause peripheral neuropathy from a vasculitis.

Symptoms & Signs

(Not all symptoms and signs may be present.)

  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Muscle pain, numbness or tingling
  • Night sweats
  • Pain when chewing
  • Severe headaches
  • Stiffness
  • Tenderness in the temple area
  • Weight loss
  • Vision loss

Also might include:

  • Red or purple rash on skin, usually on the legs
  • Aching in joints, and arthritis with pain, swelling, and heat in joints
  • Headaches, behavioral disturbances, confusion, seizures, and strokes
  • Peripheral nerve symptoms, including numbness and tingling
  • Inadequate blood flow in the intestines causing abdominal pain and bloating
  • Feeling of heaviness in the chest

Evaluation & Tests

(Not all evaluation and tests may be necessary.)

Treatment & Therapy

(Not all treatments and therapies may be indicated.)

Treatment focuses on relieving pain by reducing inflammation, slowing joint and bone damage and improving the ability to function with the disease.

  • Corticosteroids [e.g. prednisone, prednisolone, or methylprednisolone (Medrol®)]
  • Cytotoxic drugs (most commonly azathioprinc (Imuran®) and cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan®))
  • Plasmapheresis
  • Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg)
  • Take safety measures to compensate for loss of sensation

A Story of Hope:
Joe and Dana Bacon

Joe and Dana Bacon’s story is a story of hope. They personify all that is good in this world: love, strength, determination. They make you BELIEVE anything is possible. 

The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy spoke to Joe and Dana about their life, their inspirations, Dana’s battle with and acceptance of small fiber neuropathy, and Joe’s upcoming Race for a Cure at the Baltimore Marathon.