Vasculitis is an auto-immune disease which causes inflammation of the blood vessels. It can occur as the main disease (‘primary vasculitis’), or as a complication of another disease (‘secondary vasculitis’). It can affect one part of the body (‘localized vasculitis’) or multiple parts of the body (‘systemic vasculitis’).
There are almost 20 types of ‘primary systemic vasculitis’. They are classified by whether they mainly affect small, medium sized or large blood vessels.
Within the small vessel type, the most common forms of vasculitis are associated with an ANCA blood test (antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies). This subgroup includes Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (formerly Wegener’s Granulomatosis), Microscopic Polyangiitis and Eosinophilic Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (formerly known as Churg-Strauss).
The next most common types are those that affect large blood vessels, and include Giant Cell (temporal) Arteritis and Takayasu’s Arteritis.
Individual variants of vasculitis are defined by the parts of the body affected (for example, Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis typically affects the nose, lungs and kidneys), by features seen on tissue biopsy and by the pattern of blood test abnormalities. Direct imaging of blood vessels by X-rays or other tests helps in the diagnosis of medium and large vessel vasculitis.
We have factsheets with more information on each type of vasculitis, as well as other topics you may find helpful.
SEE OUR VASCULITIS FACTSHEETS