Actor and director Harold Ramis's death this week from vasculitis is raising awareness of the little-known disease. Ramis contracted the disease following a severe infection in May 2010, after which he had to relearn how to walk, the Chicago Tribune reported
Vasculitis is a group of diseases that cause inflammation of the blood vessels, according to the LiveScience
The inflammation causes a decrease in the flow of blood to tissues and organs throughout the body. Vasculitis often targets certain parts of the body such as the lungs, kidneys or skin, according to the American College of Rheumatology.
There are several types of vasculitis. Autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis (the type Ramis had) is a rare condition in which the immune system attacks the blood vessels. Other types of vasculitis can be caused by allergic reactions
, cancers, immune system disorders, or certain drugs.
Vasculitis affects both men and women, and symptoms of the disease can appear at any age.
Doctors can diagnose vasculitis by a physical examination, a biopsy
of affected tissue, a blood test, or an angiography, which exposes blood vessel abnormalities.
Treatments for vasculitis prednisone, a type of steroid medication, that helps to reduce inflammation. In many cases of vasculitis, immune-suppressing drugs such as cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, or azathioprine may be prescribed.