Reviewed by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

Vasculitis is an inflammation of the blood vessels in the body, caused by the immune system attacking the body's own blood vessels. Once the blood vessels are inflamed, this can lead to serious complications.

Vasculitis can affect any of the body's blood vessels (arteries, veins, and capillaries). When a blood vessel becomes inflamed, it can:

  • Narrow. This makes it more difficult for blood to move through the vessel.
  • Close off completely. Blood cannot move through at all (called occlusion).
  • Bulge. Rarely, a vessel can stretch and weaken, leading to a bulge (or aneurysm). It may possibly burst (rupture).

The disruption in blood flow from inflammation can damage the body's organs. Specific signs and symptoms depend on which organ has been damaged and the extent of the damage. Typical signs and symptoms of inflammation (fever, swelling, and a general sense of feeling ill) are common among people with vasculitis.

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