ANCA, or anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibody vasculitis, is a wide-ranging group of autoimmune diseases that are characterized by vascular inflammation. In healthy people, antibodies target foreign agents in the body, such as viruses, bacteria, or cancerous cells. Autoantibodies, like ANCAs, target healthy cells.
In patients with ANCA vasculitis, autoantibodies attack the blood vessels. These attacks can lead to vascular damage in many different parts of the body, potentially resulting in such serious complications as kidney failure, skin lesions, and respiratory distress. Other inflammatory symptoms are also possible.
Managing symptoms of ANCA vasculitis
With recent advances in the treatment of ANCA vasculitis, most patients are able to achieve remission and bring their disease under control, often for extended periods. But most are also likely to relapse at least once.
The biggest challenge is balancing the benefits of long-term therapy with its associated complications. Extended use of glucocorticoids to limit inflammation and its effects, for example, can increase the risk of osteoporosis, weight gain, diabetes, muscle weakness, ulcers and gastritis, and infection.
A patient’s clinical team will closely monitor the types and doses of medicines to develop a treatment plan aiming to limit both the symptoms of ANCA vasculitis and treatment-related side effects. If the disease goes into remission, treatments can be carefully withdrawn, but the patient and the clinical team will need to watch carefully for signs of vasculitis having returned.
Dealing with emotional issues
As with most chronic conditions, ANCA vasculitis can cause feelings of fear, stress, anxiety, and depression. Patients should discuss any changes in mood with their doctors. A physician or counselor may recommend additional medication to ease emotional discomfort.
Support groups can also help a patient in making lifestyle adjustments that accompany ANCA vasculitis. Physicians and medical centers often can recommend nearby support groups. Family and friends also provide vital support. It is important to keep loved ones involved with the disease state and when changing therapy regimes.
Physicians may offer recommendations for dietary changes depending on the body is affected by the disease or by treatment. Patients with high blood pressure likely will need to reduce salt intake, and those with kidney failure to restrict protein and potassium intake. Those on glucocorticoid therapies who develop osteoporosis or diabetes will need to monitor their diet with the help of a healthcare professional.
Note: ANCA Vasculitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.