Takayasu’s Arteritis: Symptoms, Treatment

Overview

Takayasu’s arteritis (TAK) is a chronic autoimmune condition that affects the largest blood vessel in the body (the aorta) and its branches. TAK belongs to vasculitis — a group of rare disorders that cause inflammation of the blood vessels. As a result of the inflammation, the blood vessel walls become thick and make it difficult for blood to flow.

Women under 40 years old are at the greatest risk of developing TAK. Although the disease can occur all over the world, it appears more often in Asian women. As an uncommon disease, TAK occurs in 2 or 3 in one million people each year in the United States.

Causes

We still don’t know what causes the inflammation in the aorta and the branches. The condition is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks your own arteries by mistake. Researchers believe that an infection may trigger the inflammatory process, but this has not yet been proven. Environmental and genetic factors may also play a role in TAK.

Risk factors for TAK include:

  • Sex

Nine out of ten patients with TAK are female.

  • Age

TAK most often occurs in people aging 15–40 years, but it can affect younger children or middle-aged adults too.

  • Ethnic groups

TAK seems to be more common in East Asia, India and, perhaps, Latin America, than in other regions.

  • Genetics

Studies show that sometimes TAK runs in families, indicating that certain genes may make individuals more susceptible to the condition.

Symptoms

Patients with TAK may or may not experience symptoms. If they do occur, common manifestations include:

  • Fatigue
  • Low-grade fevers
  • Swollen glands
  • Anemia
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Night sweats
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Pain or weakness when using limbs
  • High blood pressure
  • Weight loss
  • Visual disturbances
  • Memory problems or trouble thinking
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

You should seek medical help right away if you experience signs of a heart attack (chest or arm pain, shortness of breath) or signs of a stroke (face drooping, arm weakness or difficulty speaking).

Diagnosis

There exists no single test that can confirm the diagnosis of TAK. First, your doctor will conduct a physical exam and ask you about medical history. Then, other tests will be ordered tohelp diagnose TAK, including:

  • Blood tests

Two common blood tests that can help detect inflammation include the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) test, commonly called the “sed rate” and the C-reactive liver protein (CRP) test.

  • Imaging tests

Usually, magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) and computed tomography angiography (CTA) are enough to look at the blood vessels and to establish the diagnosis. Your doctor may also order other imaging tests, like the Doppler ultrasound and positron emission tomography (PET) scan, to make a definite diagnosis.

Treatment

When you don’t have a lot of signs and symptoms or serious complications, you may not need treatment. If not, you need treatment options to control the inflammation and prevent further damage to your blood vessels. 

Medications that can be used to treat TAK include:

Sometimes, chronic damage to arteries needs surgical treatment. Angioplasty, meaning widening a narrowed or blocked the blood vessel, may be a surgical option. With or without placement of a stent, the procedure can open the vessel. Another treatment option is bypass grafting, a surgery to redirect blood flow around a blockage in a blood vessel.


Keyword: Takayasu’s arteritis (TAK).

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.