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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 15, 2023.

What is Vasculitis?

Harvard Health Publishing

Vasculitis means inflammation of blood vessels. The inflammation can be short term (acute) or long term (chronic), and it can be so severe that it reduces blood flow to tissues and organs. This can cause dangerous organ and tissue damage, especially when vasculitis affects blood vessels in the brain, lungs, kidneys, or other vital areas.

Although the cause of most forms of vasculitis remains unknown, many forms probably are related to a problem with the immune system. One theory is that, for unknown causes, the immune system attacks the blood vessels, which causes them to become inflamed. Some researchers think this immune attack might be triggered by an infection, drug, or something else in the environment.

There are many different forms of vasculitis, including:


Symptoms vary depending on the specific type of vasculitis:


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and will examine you. This may be followed by

Expected duration

How long vasculitis lasts depends on the type. For example, most cases of cutaneous leukocytoclastic angiitis or Kawasaki disease go away on their own over a period of days or weeks. Granulomatosis with polyangiitis may respond to treatment at first, but many patients relapse and require treatment again. Giant cell arteritis typically requires therapy for a year or more.


There is no way to prevent most forms of vasculitis. If a medication caused vasculitis, you may be able to prevent another case of vasculitis by avoiding that drug.


Treatment varies by type of vasculitis:

There are a number of other types of vasculitis; they tend to be treated with immune-suppressing medications as described above.

When to call a professional

Call your doctor if you experience unexplained fever, weight loss, fatigue, or malaise (a general sick feeling), with or without areas of rash, muscle weakness, breathing problems, chest pain, or other symptoms described above.


The outlook depends on the specific type of vasculitis:

Additional info

American College of Rheumatology

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Learn more about Vasculitis

Treatment options

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.