Reviewed by Isabelle Amigues, MD, MS, RhMSUS
There are many different types of vasculitis. Churg-Strauss syndrome, giant cell arteritis and granulomatosis with polyangiitis are just a few examples.

Proper diagnosis is important for several reasons:

  • Delayed diagnosis and treatment can result in long-term damage to the affected organs.

  • Certain medications used in treatment, such as corticosteroids, can have negative side effects.

  • Other serious medical conditions often mimic vasculitis. A misdiagnosis could result in treating the wrong condition.

It’s important to clearly identify and understand your type of vasculitis before medication or other forms of treatment are prescribed.

To diagnose vasculitis, your doctor will begin with a routine physical examination and a thorough review of your medical history. From there, certain tests or procedures may be ordered to rule out other conditions and to identify the location of your vasculitis.

 

Urine Test

A sample of urine is taken and analyzed. High levels of protein or the presence of red blood cells in the urine may suggest vasculitis.

 

Blood Test

Similar to a urine test, a blood sample is taken and analyzed. High levels of protein, the presence of certain antibodies and abnormal levels of red blood cells may suggest vasculitis.

 

Biopsy

A biopsy is often the best way to make an accurate diagnosis. Your doctor will take a small sample of tissue, usually from the affected organ, and examine it under a microscope to identify signs of disease or inflammation. Biopsies can be taken from the skin, lungs, brain, kidneys or other organs where vasculitis is suspected.

 

Imaging

X-ray, computerized tomography scan (CT scan), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) and ultrasound are different types of imaging procedures that may be used to diagnose vasculitis. These procedures are minimally invasive and produce images of your body’s organs and blood vessels. These images can reveal signs of disease, inflammation, poor function or damage.

 

Angiography

An angiography is a procedure in which a thin, flexible catheter is used to inject dye (contrast medium) into your blood vessels. Then, X-ray images are taken to show blood vessel function, revealing obstruction, closures or other abnormalities.
Pinpointing the location of inflammation and which organs are affected will help your doctor develop an effective treatment plan.

 

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