The Multidisciplinary Vasculitis Clinic at Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, is a collaboration among our nephrologists, pulmonologists, rheumatologists and other specialists who provide expert care to patients who have vasculitis.

What is vasculitis?

Vasculitis is a group of rare conditions that cause the blood vessels in the body to become inflamed and narrow. When blood vessels are restricted, it prevents blood from reaching healthy tissue and can lead to tissue death and organ damage.

Patients who have vasculitis can develop kidney disease, which can progress to end-stage kidney failure if not properly treated and managed. The sooner patients start receiving treatment for kidney disease, the better the outcome.

Vasculitis causes

We don’t know the exact cause of vasculitis, but some kinds of vasculitis can be traced to genetic factors, while others are the result of an immune response.

People with vasculitis can have disease “flares,” which occur when the disease is highly active and significantly affecting healthy cells and organs. Experts don’t yet know what causes flares, but there seems to be connections between flares and environmental stress, environmental toxins and/or infections.

Ohio State’s Multidisciplinary Vasculitis Clinic is an integrated program that focuses on patient care, research and biobanking. The goal of the clinic is to manage your disease symptoms, slow the progression of kidney disease and prevent flares from occurring. Since Ohio State is regularly awarded research grants that enable our doctors to study vasculitis, you’ll have access to the most advanced disease management strategies and treatments. If you’re a newly diagnosed patient or are experiencing a flare, you’ll be seen at the clinic every four to six weeks. If your disease and symptoms are being managed, you’ll typically be seen at the clinic every four to six months.

Diagnosing vasculitis

Diagnosing vasculitis can be difficult because symptoms overlap with symptoms of other diseases. Vasculitis is most commonly diagnosed in adults over the age of 50. At Ohio State’s Multidisciplinary Vasculitis Clinic, we use these methods to diagnose vasculitis:

  • Urinalysis – Your doctor will have you provide a urine sample. It will be tested for protein and red blood cells — high protein levels or the presence of red blood cells can point to vasculitis.
  • Blood tests – Your doctor will take a sample of your blood and have it tested for signs of inflammation, such as a high level of C-reactive protein. Blood tests can also look for other indicators of vasculitis like the presence of certain antibodies and a high red blood cell count.
  • X-rays of blood vessels (angiography) – Your doctor will insert a flexible catheter (tube) into a large artery or vein, then inject a special dye into the bloodstream through the catheter. X-rays are taken to see how the dye has filled the vessels, which can show your doctor the extent of inflammation or damage from vasculitis.
  • Kidney biopsy – Your doctor will use a long needle to extract a sample of kidney tissue to be evaluated under a microscope. This precise examination allows doctors to see kidney damage at a cellular level and know exactly how your kidneys are being affected by the disease.

Doctors at Ohio State’s Multidisciplinary Vasculitis Clinic meet weekly to discuss each patient and develop and modify individualized treatment plans.

Vasculitis treatment

Treatment for vasculitis is focused on managing your symptoms, preventing flares and slowing disease progression. Treatment depends on what kind of vasculitis you have, if you have an active flare and the severity of your disease. Treatment is lifelong, as there is no cure for vasculitis.

Treatments offered at Ohio State’s Multidisciplinary Vasculitis Clinic include:

  • Medication – Your team of doctors can prescribe immune-suppressant medications to control the immune system. Other medications include anti-inflammatory medications, medications to help manage blood pressure and hormone levels, and steroids to help improve kidney function and manage other symptoms. Medications may be prescribed in pill or infusion form.
  • Biologic therapy – Biologic therapy is a treatment that targets specific cells in your body. For example, one kind of vasculitis is associated with a specific B-cell. A biologic therapy medication exists that can kill that specific kind of B-cell, while keeping other B-cells healthy.
  • Lifestyle modifications – Your team of doctors may recommend changes in your diet and habits that can help improve kidney function and prevent disease flares. These include eating a low-sodium diet, participating in regular physical activity, and avoiding harmful substances like tobacco and alcohol.
  • Clinical trials – At any point in time, Ohio State has 10 to 20 active clinical trials focused on innovative treatments for vasculitis and other autoimmune and glomerular diseases that are rare or ultra-rare. These trials allow you to receive the latest and most advanced medications and treatment therapies.

You’ll have bloodwork, urinalysis and other tests done at clinic appointments to monitor disease progression and modify treatments as needed.

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