Medical Q&As

Urticarial vasculitis - explain?

What is urticarial vasculitis? Can it be cured? What treatment is available?

Urticarial vasculitis is a form of hypersensitivity reaction in which clumps of antigen and antibody are deposited in the blood vessels. An antigen is any agent that provokes an antibody response within the body. The antigen antibody complexes then trigger a further cascade of reactions within the immune system that ultimately results in vasculitis or inflammation of the blood vessels. These changes are manifest on the surface of the body by the emergence of large wheals that can persist for up to 24 hours. In addition to the wheals and associated rash the sufferer also complains of a burning or itchy sensation in the skin. Accompanying symptoms may include joint pain, fever, breathlessness and the accumulation of fluid in the pleural space, which surrounds the lungs and also in the pericardium, which is the membrane that envelops the heart. The commonest causes of this condition are; drugs including penicillin and blood pressure treatments called ACE inhibitors, rheumatic diseases such as SLE and viral diseases such as hepatitis B and C. There is another form of the condition known as idiopathic urticarial vasculitis, which means that it has erupted for no known cause. The treatment of the condition is based on treating the underlying cause. In general terms the condition has a good prognosis with full resolution of the complaint within a year of onset for most sufferers.