Takayasu's arteritis (tah-kah-YAH-sooz ahr-tuh-RIE-tis) is a rare type of vasculitis, a group of disorders that cause blood vessel inflammation. In Takayasu's arteritis, the inflammation damages the aorta — the large artery that carries blood from your heart to the rest of your body — and the aorta's main branches. The disease can lead to blockages or narrowed arteries, called stenoses, or abnormally dilated arteries, called aneurysms. Takayasu's arteritis can also lead to arm or chest pain, high blood pressure, and eventually to heart failure or stroke.
Takayasu's arteritis mainly affects young girls and women under 40. The exact cause of the disease is not known.
The goal of treatment is to relieve inflammation in the arteries and prevent potential complications. Even with early detection and treatment, however, Takayasu's arteritis can be challenging to manage.
Chambers and the valves of the heart
A normal heart has two upper and two lower chambers. The upper chambers, the right and left atria, receive incoming blood. The lower chambers, the more muscular right and left ventricles, pump blood ...
Not everyone has these initial symptoms, however, and it's possible for inflammation to damage arteries for years before problems appear.
When to see a doctor
If you've already been diagnosed with Takayasu's arteritis, keep in mind that the symptoms of a disease flare (recurrence) are often similar to those that occurred when the disease first began. Also pay attention to any new signs or symptoms. These may indicate either a disease flare or a complication of treatment.
Takayasu's arteritis is a form of vasculitis — inflammation of the blood vessels — that damages the large arteries, especially the aorta. ...
In Takayasu's arteritis the aorta and other major arteries, including those leading to your head and kidneys, become inflamed. Over time, the inflammation causes changes in these arteries, including thickening, narrowing and scarring. The result is reduced blood flow to vital tissues and organs, which can lead to serious complications and even death. Sometimes arteries become abnormally dilated, leading to aneurysms that may rupture.
Just what causes the initial inflammation in Takayasu's arteritis isn't known. It's likely that Takayasu's arteritis is an autoimmune disease, in which your immune system malfunctions and attacks your own arteries as if they were foreign substances.
Takayasu's arteritis primarily affects young girls and women in their 20s and 30s. The disorder occurs worldwide, but it's most common in Asian women.
The severity of Takayasu's arteritis may vary. In some people, the condition remains mild and doesn't produce complications. But in others, extended or recurring cycles of inflammation and healing in the arteries can lead to one or more of the following:
Preparing for your appointment
If your family doctor or general practitioner suspects Takayasu's arteritis, you will likely be referred to one or more specialists for diagnosis and treatment. This is important — Takayasu's arteritis is a rare disorder that can be difficult to diagnose and treat. If your case is very serious, you may want to talk with your doctor about a referral to a medical center that specializes in treating vasculitis.
Because appointments can be brief and there's often a lot of ground to cover, it can help to be well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For Takayasu's arteritis, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions anytime you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Takayasu's arteritis can be challenging to detect, and some people go years without an accurate diagnosis. Your doctor may use some of the following steps and tests to help rule out other conditions that closely resemble Takayasu's arteritis and to confirm the diagnosis:
Unlike other types of vasculitis, the removal and analysis of tissue (biopsy) is not usually used to diagnose Takayasu's arteritis.
Because Takayasu's arteritis has a tendency to recur or flare up after being in remission for a while, these tests may be used not only for diagnosis but also for monitoring the progress of the disease and following up on effectiveness of treatment. Some of the medications used for Takayasu's arteritis may have potentially harmful effects over the long run, so it's important for you and your doctor to know when medication is beneficial and when its risks outweigh its benefits.
Treatments and drugs
The goal of treatment is to control inflammation and prevent further damage to your blood vessels, with the fewest long-term side effects. Takayasu's arteritis can sometimes be difficult to treat because even if you appear to be in remission, disease activity may still continue "silently." In addition, by the time some people are diagnosed, it's possible that irreversible damage may already have occurred.
On the other hand, if your condition is relatively stable and uncomplicated, you may not need treatment at all.
Treatment usually consists of medications and, in some cases, surgery.
Coping and support
When Takayasu's arteritis is identified and treated early, the prognosis is usually good. One of your greatest challenges may be coping with side effects of your medication. The following suggestions may help:
Last Updated: 2010-10-30
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