Polyarteritis nodosa is a serious blood vessel disease in which small and medium-sized arteries become swollen and damaged.
Polyarteritis nodosa is a disease of unknown cause that affects arteries, the blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood to organs and tissues. It occurs when certain immune cells attack the affected arteries.
More adults than children get this disease. It damages the tissues supplied by the affected arteries because the tissues aren't receiving the oxygen and nourishment they need.
In this disease, symptoms result from damage to affected organs, often the skin, heart, kidneys, and nervous system.
Generalized symptoms include fever, fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Muscle and joint aches are common. The skin may show rashes, swelling, ulcers, and lumps.
Nerve involvement may cause sensory changes with numbness, pain, burning, and weakness. Central nervous system involvement may cause strokes or seizures. Kidney involvement can produce varying degrees of renal (kidney) failure.
When heart arteries are involved, heart attack, heart failure, and inflammation of the sac around the heart (pericarditis) can occur.
There are no specific lab tests for diagnosing polyarteritis nodosa. Diagnosis is based on the physical examination and a few laboratory studies that help to confirm the diagnosis:
CBC may show a higher than normal white blood count.
ESR or CRP is often higher than normal.
- Tissue biopsy reveals inflammation in small arteries, called arteritis.
- Immunoglobulins may be increased.
Current treatments using steroids and other drugs that suppress the immune system (such as cyclophosphamide) can improve symptoms and the chance of long-term survival. The most serious associated conditions generally involve the kidneys and gastrointestinal tract. Without treatment, the outlook is poor.
Call your health care provider if you develop symptoms of this disorder. Early diagnosis and treatment may improve the chance of a good outcome.
Treatment involves medications to suppress the immune system, including prednisone and cyclophosphamide.
There is no known prevention. However, early treatment can prevent some damage and symptoms.
Sergent JS. Polyarteritis and related disorders. In: Harris ED Jr., Budd RC, Genovese MC, Firestein GS, Sargent JS, eds. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2005: chap 84.
Stone JH. The systemic vasculitides. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 291.
Review Date: 7/24/2008
Reviewed By: Neil J. Gonter, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Columbia University, New York, NY, and private practice specializing in Rheumatology at Rheumatology Associates of North Jersey, Teaneck, NJ. Review provided by Verimed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2009 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.