In healthy men and women, antibodies target foreign agents in the body, such as viruses, bacteria, or cancerous cells. Autoantibodies, like ANCAs, target healthy cells that are native to the body. In patients with ANCA vasculitis, autoantibodies trigger white blood cells to attach to and damage the surrounding blood vessel walls. This vascular damage can occur in many parts of the body, potentially resulting in serious kidney failure, skin lesions, and respiratory distress, among other inflammatory symptoms.
In some cases, vasculitis can be cured quickly; in others, the disease can be long-term. In such cases, different treatments may allow patients to live long, healthy lives. It is not uncommon for symptoms to go through temporary states of remission.
Factors that affect the prognosis of ANCA vasculitis
The prognosis of ANCA vasculitis is difficult to define because the disease can affect a variety of organs and body systems. The symptoms and potential associated diseases will depend on which areas of the body the vasculitis affects. Forms of vasculitis that cause damage to major organs, such as the kidneys or the cardiovascular system, can have a negative impact on overall life expectancy.
The few studies that have reviewed the long-term survival of ANCA vasculitis patients indicate that mortality is higher than in the general population, though the causes of death vary. The mortality rate is generally highest in the first year after diagnosis, with infection and active vasculitis as the main causes of death. After the first year, the major causes of death include cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, tumor growth, and compromised immune system. About 70 percent of patients experience ANCA vasculitis-related kidney insufficiency, which is a primary factor of increased mortality.
Periodic checkups with a physician
Regular checkups are important for patient safety because the symptoms can change significantly over the course of the disease. Some of the treatments for vasculitis, particularly corticosteroids, also can suppress the immune system and increase the risk of infection. Untangling which symptoms are associated with the disease and which ones may have arisen due to treatment is important for managing ANCA vasculitis.
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