Vasculitic neuropathy refers to damage to the peripheral nerves (the nerves that are located outside of the brain and spinal cord) as a consequence of vasculitis (a condition characterized by inflammation and destruction of blood vessels).
Vasculitis refers to a number of conditions that cause inflammation in the blood vessels of the body. This inflammation can prevent sufficient blood flow from reaching various organs and tissues of the body. Because adequate blood flow is required to provide the organs and tissues with oxygen, vasculitis causes damage to oxygen-deprived organs and tissues. When peripheral nerves are oxygen-deprived due to vasculitis, vasculitic neuropathy ensues.
Peripheral neuropathy can occur as the only symptom of vasculitis, or it can be part of a symptom complex.
About 60-70% of all patients with vasculitis will experience peripheral neuropathy. In fact, about 34% of all patients with vasculitis will manifest peripheral neuropathy as the sole manifestation of their vasuclitis. The average age of an individual with vasculitic neuropathy is 62.
Causes and symptoms
Vasculitic neuropathy can accompany a number of types of vasculitis, including polyarteritis nodosa, Churg-Strauss syndrome, Wegener's granulomatosis, Sjogren's syndrome, rheumatoid vasculitis, and vasculitis due to infections (such as Lyme disease, hepatitis, or HIV). Vasculitis occurs when the body's immune system accidentally misidentifies markers on the blood vessel walls as foreign. The immune system then begins to produce immune cells that attack and destroy the blood vessels. As the blood vessels become inflamed, blood flow through them is diminished, resulting in oxygen deprivation of the organs or tissues they normally serve. When the oxygen-deprived tissues are nerve cells, vasculitic neuropathy results.
Most people with vasculitic neuropathy notice pain and then weakness in a random, nonsymmetric distribution throughout their limbs; a smaller number (about one-third of all sufferers) notice pain and weakness that progress in a symmetric fashion, beginning with the feet or hands and progressing up the limbs. The pain of vasculitic neuropathy can include shooting, sharp pain, tingling, numbness, burning, and stinging. Some patients with vasculitic neuropathy will also experience fever, decreased appetite, weight loss, rash, fatigue, joint pain, and kidney problems.
Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt MD, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,