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Vasculitis: A Diagnosis In Progress

Updated on February 13, 2009

The Beginning

Although I've not been a Hubber for long, I'd like to share my last couple days with you. Let me start out by saying I feel fine-aside from being lethargic from some medication. As some of you know, I am undergoing testing for vasculitis. Let me start from the beginning. . .

Last February (2008) I woke up with a red, inflammed toe. Living in Wisconsin, I assumed a spider bit me, and continued with my life. A couple days later, the toe next to the infected one also appeared red and little painful. After a couple soaks in epsome salts and a few days with icthamol, I decided to go to the doctor. He took one look at it and quickly prescribed some cephalexin for cellulitis. I would be fine in a few days-bug bite. Sure enough, it cleared up and life returned to normal.

Jump ahead 6 months to August. I wake up, same toe is red and inflammed. I go to another doctor I know pretty well. He looks at my toe and doesn't think it's a bug bite, but prescribes me cephalexin to clear it up. Problem solved.

Now, jump ahead 6 more months. We are at February 6th, 2009. Friday morning I wake up, and you've guessed it; same toe red and swollen. I'm ticked with whatever bug keeps biting me. I refill my prescription, leave a note for the doctor asking for the next step, come home, spray the house, and frontline the cats. Monday I get to work and the doctor wants me to see a podiatrist. Now, I'm not the richest person in the world, and really don't feel that I have an actual foot problem-just an allergy to insect venom. So I ask my primary doctor what she thinks.

It's Tuesday night and I'm sitting in an empty exam room waiting for my physician. She takes one look at my toe and says I don't need a podiatrist. She asks me a few questions about joint pain (none), fatigue (not any more than usual), checks my pulse, and lymphnodes, and rushes me over to another doctor. This doctor looks at my fingers and eyes. The two quietly discuss my toes in a small corner, then approach me.

Both agree I have vasculitis--an inflammation of the vasculature in my feet. Then the questions begin: does anyone in my family have an autoimmune disease? No. Do you have lupus? No. Do you have mono? No. Do you have lymes? No. Do you have a blood clotting disorder? No. [Luckily, I had a blood panel run this spring and all those came back negative]. A little more sighing and quite conversations from the docs, and it's agreed I must immediately stop the antibiotics, and have blood work done. The only problem: the usual culprits have all been eliminated from past blood work. I am to return in the morning fasting, and the two doctors will call the head of pathology at Mayo to see what tests I need.

Wednesday morning I arrive at the lab to donate the blood. They take a total of 10 vials using both arms. The lab director is holding for the pathologist, but will send the blood out right away. My doctor orders a prescription for prednisone, and tells me to go home. (Nice way to spend your day off). I start the steriod which immediately knocks me out and kills all thoughts of eating.

Notice the redness at the tips of the toes. All the toes are involved, and just the toes. The bottom and tops of the feet are fine.
Notice the redness at the tips of the toes. All the toes are involved, and just the toes. The bottom and tops of the feet are fine.

What is Vasculitis

This morning, I start reseaching vasculitis. If you check out www.vasculitsfoundation.org, there is tons of information on there. Basically, vasculitis is an inflammation of the blood vessels in the body. This is not caused by poor circulation. It is caused when your immune system begins to attack a certain part of the body. Normally your immune system keeps you healthy by attacking foreign bodies (i.e. bacteria, virus, etc). However, it can begin attacking healthy areas of your body. Hence, all the questions about autoimmune disorders.

In the case of secondary vasculitis, the immune response is triggered by a latent virus, bacteria, or reaction from medication. (I hope this is what I have. I did suffer from 3 very bad bacterial infections before the vasculitis).

Primary vasculitis has a huge range of causes and many rare diseases. If left untreated, primary vasculitis can be fatal. Some of the problems range from renal failure, seizure, heart disease, liver failure, amputation, stroke, etc. Most primary vasculitis attack young children and older men; however, there are a few cases which attack women age 20-40. (Since I am in my twenties, I fall within this category).

That's about it in a nutshell. All I can do now is wait for the blood tests from Mayo, and pray I have secondary vasculitis. I will keep everyone updated. And no, I am not in any pain. Like I said, I feel quite good except for the loss of appetite and sleepiness caused by the prednisone. Please check out www.vasculitisfoundation.org for more information.

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