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What is vasculitis?
Vasculitis is a general term for a group of uncommon diseases that
feature inflammation of the
blood vessels. The blood vessels of the
body are referred to as the vascular system. The
blood vessels are comprised of arteries that pass oxygen-rich blood to the
tissues of the body and veins that return oxygen-depleted blood from the
tissues to the lungs for oxygen. Vasculitis is characterized by
inflammation in and damage to the walls of various blood vessels.
Each of the vasculitis diseases is defined by certain patterns of distribution of
blood vessel involvement, particular organ involvement, and laboratory test abnormalities.
As a group, these diseases are referred to as vasculitides.
The word vasculitis is derived from the Latin
"vasculum", vessel + "- itis", inflammation. Another term for vasculitis is
angiitis. When arteries are the inflamed blood vessels, the condition is also referred to as arteritis. When the veins are inflamed, it is referred to as venulitis.