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Takayasu's arteritis is an autoimmune disease. It causes redness and swelling (inflammation) of the large arteries. It’s a rare disease that’s much more common in young women. It is also believed to be more common in people from East Asia, India, and South America.
An autoimmune disease is caused by a problem with the immune system. The immune system’s job is to protect the body from disease. It does this by attacking things in the body, such as viruses, that may cause harm. When you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks your own body. In Takayasu's arteritis, the immune system attacks the walls of arteries.
Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood around your body. Arteries send blood from the heart out to the body. Takayasu's arteritis mostly affects the aorta and its main branches. The aorta is the large artery that leads from the heart. When your immune system attacks your arteries, it causes inflammation. This can damage your arteries.
Researchers are working to understand the cause of the disease. An infection by a virus or bacteria may cause Takayasu's arteritis if you have a weak immune system. Genes may be part of the cause.
Takayasu's arteritis causes inflammation of your arteries, which may lead to symptoms such as:
Over time, inflammation will damage your arteries. It can cause one of your arteries to be partly blocked (stenosis). Or it can cause a complete blockage of one of your arteries (occlusion). It also can cause the walls of an artery to become weaker. The weakened artery will then inflate and bulge. This is called an aneurysm. An aneurysm can cause tearing of the artery. Bleeding of your artery will cause serious problems or even death.
Your symptoms will depend on the artery affected. Possible symptoms include:
There is no one test that can diagnose Takayasu's arteritis. Many of its symptoms are similar to those of other diseases. For these reasons, your healthcare provider may take a while to diagnose it.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your medical history and your symptoms. You will have a physical exam. During the exam, your provider may:
You may also have a blood test. This checks your levels of C-reactive protein and alpha-2 globulin protein. Your blood will have higher levels of these if your arteries are inflamed.
You may also have an imaging test of the large arteries. This is an important part of the diagnosis. These tests are done to look for blocked or inflated arteries. Your health care provider may use one or more of the below:
A main goal of treatment is to reduce damage to your arteries. This is done by taking medicine that reduces inflammation. You may be given medicine such as:
Your healthcare provider will need to watch the health of your large arteries on a regular basis. You will have blood tests and imaging tests such as MRA or CTA.
If one of your arteries becomes very narrow, you may need surgery (called revascularization) to repair it. This surgery can be done with angioplasty or a bypass graft:
Possible complications are caused by blocked arteries. They can vary depending on which artery is blocked, and may include problems such as:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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