When Is a Plasma Exchange the Best Treatment for Vasculitis?

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When Is a Plasma Exchange the Best Treatment for Vasculitis?

Vasculitis refers to a group of disorders characterized by inflammation of blood vessels, causing the involved vessels to weaken, narrow, or even close entirely.

The symptoms and complications of vasculitis vary widely depending on the location and severity of the vessel inflammation, ranging from persistent skin rashes to lung hemorrhages to strokes.

Diagnosing and treating vasculitis is one of the many specialty services we offer at Allergy A.R.T.S. in Amarillo, Texas. Our providers develop customized, comprehensive treatment plans focused on optimizing health and improving overall quality of life.

Read more from our team regarding plasma exchange as a therapy for vasculitis.

What causes vasculitis?

Vasculitis is an autoimmune response that causes your immune system to attack your body’s blood vessels mistakenly.

Anyone can develop vasculitis. While we aren’t sure why people develop vasculitis, there are some common triggers:  

  • Medication reaction
  • Infections, such as hepatitis B or C
  • Certain cancers
  • Inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus

Symptoms vary depending on the type of vasculitis, the vessels involved, and the organs affected. Yours may include fever, fatigue, persistent skin rashes, and muscle or joint pain.

Vasculitis can affect blood flow to and from the heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, and other vital organs. Untreated or severe vasculitis can lead to serious complications, including irreversible organ damage, aneurysms, or blood clots.

Treating vasculitis

The treatment for vasculitis depends on its type and severity. Based on your evaluation results at Allergy A.R.T.S., the strategy may include medicine to reduce inflammation (corticosteroids) and drugs to suppress the immune system.

Your specialist may also recommend plasma exchange (plasmapheresis) to rapidly reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of vasculitis-related health complications.  

What is plasma exchange?

The primary objective of plasma exchange is removing harmful substances from the blood, including abnormal proteins, antibodies, or other factors contributing to the inflammatory processes.

Plasma is the fluid portion of blood, containing red and white blood cells and platelets. During plasma exchange, we use a machine to remove some of your blood, eliminate harmful cells in the plasma that are causing inflammation, and return “clean” blood plasma to your body.

Why would I need plasma exchange, and what are the benefits?

Individuals with severe vasculitis that does not respond to standard treatments, such as corticosteroids or immunosuppressive drugs, might benefit from plasma exchange to rapidly remove harmful antibodies and inflammatory mediators.

Additionally, your provider may recommend plasma exchange for certain types of vasculitis. For instance, ANCA-associated vasculitis can impair kidney function and cause lung hemorrhage. Plasma exchange may help prevent those complications.

Additionally, since plasma exchange can lead to improvement or remission in some patients, it may reduce the need for high doses of corticosteroids or immunosuppressive drugs, limiting their associated side effects.

However, your body can reproduce the harmful substances removed by plasma exchange so that the effect might be temporary. Thus, it's often used in conjunction with other treatments. Even though you may be feeling better, it’s important to continue close follow-up with your specialist to ensure gains obtained with plasma exchange continue.  

For further information about treating vasculitis, schedule an evaluation at Allergy A.R.T.S. today. Call the office or request a visit online.