Diane A. Safer, PhD
Polyarteritis nodosa is an autoimmune disease. Your immune system is your body’s defense system. It fights diseases and infections. An autoimmune disease is a condition in which your body's immune system mistakenly attacks your own body. With polyarteritis nodosa, medium-sized arteries and, less commonly, small arteries become inflamed and damaged. The inflammation of the arteries affects many different organs.
The cause of polyarteritis nodosa is unknown. In relatively rare cases, however, it occurs with
virus infection or
hairy cell leukemia.
Factors that may increase your chance of developing polyarteritis nodosa include:
Polyarteritis nodosa is a multisystem disease. This means that it affects many parts of your body at the same time. It can affect organs such as the skin, kidney, nerves, and gastrointestinal tract, which includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines.
Often, you will experience
headache, fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, and fever. Other symptoms include:
There is no single test to diagnose polyarteritis nodosa. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:
Your muscles and nerves may be tested. This can be done with a nerve conduction study.
Your vascular system may be tested. This can be done with an arteriogram.
Early diagnosis and treatment of polyarteritis nodosa may improve the outcome. Treatment
may be vigorous, with the goal being to reduce the inflammation of the arteries and put the condition into remission.
Without treatment, the condition may be fatal. Complications from polyarteritis nodosa include stroke, kidney failure, heart attack, and permanent tissue damage of the intestines.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
There is no known way to prevent polyarteritis nodosa.
Polyarteritis Nodosa Research and Support Network
Vasculitis Clinical Research Consortium
Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders
Canadian Rheumatology Association
Polyarteritis nodosa. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated February 27, 2012. Accessed August 6, 2013.
Types of vasculitis: polyarteritis nodosa. The Johns Hopkins Vasculitis Center website. Available at:
http://www.hopkinsvasculitis.org/types-vasculitis/polyarteritis-nodosa/. Accessed August 6, 2013.
Last reviewed August 2013 by Michael J. Fucci, DO; Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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