Polyarteritis nodosa is a rare disease affecting small and medium sized arteries, which are the blood vessels responsible for carrying oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. This condition results from blood vessel inflammation and affects blood vessels in any organ in the body, including the kidneys, nerves, joints, intestines and heart.
Causes of Polyarteritis Nodosa
While there is no known cause of polyarteritis nodosa, it is thought to be the result of a reaction to drugs, vaccines, infections or exposure to hepatitis B or C. Researchers suspect that a breakdown in the immune system may be the cause of the development of the disease. It is known that polyarteritis nodosa is not contagious and does not appear to be a genetic disease. The condition is more common in adult men between the ages of 40 and 50 years old than women and children.
Symptoms of Polyarteritis Nodosa
Because there are so many different organs that may be affected, symptoms of polyarteritis nodosa may vary. General symptoms of polyarteritis nodosa may include:
- Joint and muscle aches
- Sudden decrease in appetite
- Weight loss
- Skin rash, swelling, ulcers and lumps
- Abdominal pain
- Bloody stool
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- High blood pressure
Diagnosis of Polyarteritis Nodosa
After a physical exam, a blood test is typically performed. Polyarteritis nodosa exhibits an elevated white blood cell count. A urine test will be used to test for high levels of protein and blood in the urine. A biopsy or arteriogram may also be performed, as it can determine if the arteries are inflamed.
Treatment of Polyarteritis Nodosa
Immunosuppressive medications are typically prescribed to treat polyarteritis nodosa. If hepatitis B or C is present, antiviral medication will also be used to treat the hepatitis in addition to the immunosuppressants. While this condition cannot be prevented, prompt medical attention can help individuals prevent further damage and control their symptoms.