Rheumatoid vasculitis (RV) is a condition in which the blood vessels are inflamed and blood flow is restricted. As a result, there is pain and tissue damage at the site of the affected organ or body part.
RV is a complication of rheumatoid arthritis. It affects about one percent of rheumatoid arthritis patients. RV may affect people of any age, gender, or ethnicity. Arthritis patients with new symptoms affecting their overall constitutions should be on the alert for RV.
RV symptoms occur outside of the joints, which are affected by arthritis. It is a systemic illness that also causes general symptoms such as fever and weight loss. Organs or systems vulnerable to RV may include:
- Skin - lesions, particularly in the lower limbs
- Eyes - inflammation of the sclera (the white of the eye) causes redness, pain, and sensitivity to light
- Nerves - mononeuritis multiplex, a group of painful nerve symptoms that can include numbness, severe tingling, weakness, and muscle wasting in the hands and feet.
- Blood vessels - ischemia (severe tissue damage, resulting in pain and discoloration) in the fingers or toes due to inflammation
Definitive diagnosis for RV usually requires a biopsy. Blood tests will indicate a general state of inflammation that is hard to separate from the arthritis. Other conditions, such as diabetes or other types of vasculitis, share symptoms with RV. These other diseases must be eliminated from consideration before treatment for RV can begin.
Treatment depends on which parts of the body are affected. Doctors often begin with prednisone or another steroid. Medications to suppress the immune system will help with the inflammation as well. Treatment of RV takes place in conjunction with treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, and both conditions need close monitoring.