Diane A. Safer, PhD
Polyarteritis nodosa is an autoimmune disease. The immune system is the body’s defense system. It fights diseases and infections. An autoimmune disease is a condition in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the 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 rare cases, however, it occurs with
virus infection or
hairy cell leukemia.
Polyarteritis nodosa is more common in people 40 to 60 years of age, although it can occur at any age. It is also more common in men.
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. You will be asked 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 aggressive, 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 Plus website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T909129/Ventricular-arrhythmias. Updated March 15, 2016. Accessed September 26, 2016.
Types of vasculitis: polyarteritis nodosa. The Johns Hopkins Vasculitis Center website. Available at:
http://www.hopkinsvasculitis.org/types-vasculitis/polyarteritis-nodosa/. Accessed June 13, 2016.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
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