Takayasu’s Arteritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune condition that affects the largest blood vessel in the body (the aorta) and its branches. Thus, the complications of Takayasu’s arise directly or indirectly from damage to these blood vessels.
The vasculitides (Vasculitides are inflammatory diseases affecting large, medium or small sized vessels, caused by various immunological processes and possibly triggered by infectious agents.) are classified according to the size of blood vessel involved. Takayasu’s is the classic “large vessel” vasculitis. In Takayasu’s Arteritis, the inflammation damages the aorta — the large artery that carries blood from your heart to the rest of your body — and its main branches, including the blood vessels that supply blood to the arms and travel through the neck to provide blood to the brain. The aorta itself is also often affected. Less commonly, arteries that provide blood to the heart, intestines, kidneys, and legs may be involved.
Takayasu’s Arteritis is occasionally called “pulseless disease”, because of the difficulty in detecting peripheral or outer pulses that sometimes occurs as a result of the vascular narrowings.
Click here to watch this video on what Takayasu Arteritis is.
Who is Affected?
The “typical” patient with Takayasu’s Arteritis is girls and women between the ages of 10 and 40. There is a 9 to 1 female predominance in this disease. Although the disease has a worldwide distribution, it appears to occur more often in Asian women.
Takayasu’s arteritis is a rare disease. The best estimates of the disease frequency suggest that 2 or 3 cases occur each year per million people in a population.
Because TAK can cause heart problems, high blood pressure and stroke, patients with TAK should talk to their doctor about ways to lower the risk of these serious problems.
The video and audio fall out of sync, but you can hear this interesting story about this woman’s diagnosis of TA.
The symptoms of Takayasu’s Arteritis often occur in two stages.
In the first stage, you are likely to feel unwell with:
- Unintended weight loss
- General aches and pains
- Mild fever
Now, not everyone has these early signs and symptoms. This is the scary thing about this autoimmune disorder, it is possible for inflammation to damage arteries for years before you realize something is wrong. That seems to go along with other autoimmune disorders that can take five to seven years to have a correct diagnosis.
During the second stage, inflammation is causing arteries to narrow so less blood, oxygen and nutrients reach your organs and tissues.
Stage 2 signs and symptoms may include:
- Weakness or pain in your limbs with use
- Lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting
- Memory problems
- Trouble thinking
- Shortness of breath
- Visual changes
- High blood pressure
- Difference in blood pressure between your arms
- Decreased pulse
- Too few red blood cells (anemia)
- Chest pain
- Noises heard over the arteries (bruits) when listening with a stethoscope
There are other complications that can coincide with TA:
- Hardening and narrowing of blood vessels
- High blood pressure
- Inflammation of the heart
- Heart failure
- Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
- Aneurysm in the aorta
- Heart attack
The diagnosis of Takayasu’s arteritis is based on a combination of factors, including:
- A complete medical history and careful physical exam to exclude other illnesses that may have similar symptoms
- Imaging studies (such as MRI, X-rays, and angiograms), which show location and severity of vessel damage
- Presence of a bruit. Significant narrowing of blood vessels may result in turbulent blood flow through the narrowed area that creates an unusual sound called a “bruit.”
I have learned a lot putting this post together and watching the videos that people who are living with this disease have made. I hope you have learned something new, too. If you are living with Takayasu’s Arteritis and you would like to share your story, please leave your comment below.