What is polyarteritis nodosa?

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Polyarteritis nodosa is considered as a form of vasculitis that involves the inflammation of the medium-sized arteries. The condition is rare and usually develops during middle age especially those in their 50s but can occur at any age.

The exact cause is unknown but can be triggered by certain viral infections or medications. The skin, kidneys, joints, nerves, muscles and digestive tract are usually affected. The heart and the liver are often affected as well.

Indications of polyarteritis nodosa

The condition can be mild initially but worsen rapidly and deadly within several months or develop in a gradual manner as a chronic debilitating condition. Any organ or combination of organs can be affected.

The symptoms depend on which organs are involved and how severely they are affected. In some instances, only one organ or nerve can be affected. An individual might have general symptoms at first where he/she feels sick, tired and with fever. There is also appetite loss and weight loss along with night sweats and generalized weakness.

Possible prognosis

Polyarteritis nodosa
An individual might have general symptoms at first where he/she feels sick, tired and with fever.

Without proper treatment, an individual with polyarteritis nodosa has a diminished chance of surviving 5 years. If treatment is started, those who have the condition has a higher chance of surviving for 5 years. Individuals with affected kidneys, nerves, brain or digestive tract usually have a poor diagnosis.


The treatment is focused on the prevention of damage from progressing but it could not reverse the damage that already occurred. The treatment is based on the severity of the condition. Any medications that triggered the condition should be stopped.

Large doses of corticosteroid such as prednisone can be used to prevent polyarteritis nodosa from worsening as well as help the individual feel better. The objective is a period free from any symptoms. Since many individuals necessitate a long-term treatment using a corticosteroid with evident side effects, the doctor reduces the dosage once the symptoms start to subside.

If the corticosteroid could not effectively reduce the inflammation, medications that suppress the immune system might be given with the corticosteroid. Using both medications for an extended period reduces the ability of the body to fight infections. This puts an individual at high risk for infections that might be serious or fatal if not recognized and promptly treated.

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