Vasculitis, also known as angiitis or arteritis, is an inflammation of the body’s blood vessels. Blood vessels may stretch, weaken or become scarred and inflamed, and changes in blood vessel walls also may result in vessels thickening, increasing in size, or becoming so narrow that they close almost entirely, cutting off or reducing the blood supply to organs. In some cases, alternate or collateral blood vessels can assist blood flow. If there are not enough collateral blood vessels to aid in the process, tissue deprived of sufficient blood flow can die. Alternatively, an aneurysm or bulging of the blood vessel may occur, causing it to bleed and rupture, which in rare cases may lead to death.

Vasculitis affects both men and women of all ages. While the cause generally is not known, it can be triggered by medication or an allergic reaction. Vasculitis can be linked to an existing or recent infection resulting from certain viruses. An infection may cause an abnormal response from the immune system that damages blood vessels. Similarly, complications related to long-term immune system disorders, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, may trigger vasculitis. Vasculitis can be chronic (lasting a long time) or acute (lasting for a brief period of time).

The UAB Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology has consistently been ranked as one of the top 12 clinical rheumatology programs in the country by U.S. News & World Report. It is internationally recognized for its dedication to advancing knowledge and translating research findings into more effective diagnosis and treatment of patients with rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE), osteoporosis, scleroderma, dermatomyositis, polymyositis, vasculitis (including Wegener’s granulomatosis), and related diseases. As one of the largest academic rheumatology programs in the nation, the division’s clinical practice logs more than 10,000 visits annually, evaluating and treating patients with various forms of connective tissue disease. It is staffed by practitioners and specialists in multiple fields, making it easier for physicians to collaborate toward more effective patient care.

Since the division’s formation in the 1950s, our rheumatologists have contributed substantially to the understanding of rheumatic diseases, including their pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, and current diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. They work closely with specialists in musculoskeletal radiology to provide the most advanced imaging techniques and interpretation of radiographs, CT scans, and MRI scans. The Interdisciplinary Infusion Center at The Kirklin Clinic of UAB Hospital provides ready access to the latest FDA-approved intravenous medications for many rheumatic diseases.

With support from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, we launched the UAB Center of Research Translation on Gout and Hyperuricemia. The center includes the UAB Gout Clinic, located within the Rheumatology clinic at The Kirklin Clinic of UAB Hospital, where UAB experts come together in one location to deliver cutting-edge patient care and conduct advanced research on gout, which affects an estimated 4% of the U.S. population. This team combines expertise in rheumatology, nephrology, and cardiology to focus on better understanding how gout is influenced by genetics and environmental factors, with the goal of more accurate diagnoses and increasingly effective treatments.

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