Vasculitis Diagnosis

Your healthcare provider may be able to diagnose the type of vasculitis that you have and how serious it is. Depending on your symptoms, your provider may recommend that you see a specialist for more tests or procedures.

Which specialists can diagnose vasculitis?

  • Cardiologists specialize in the heart.
  • Dermatologists specialize in skin.
  • Infectious disease specialists are experts in diagnosis and treatment of infections.
  • Nephrologists specialize in the kidneys.
  • Neurologists specialize in the brain and nervous system.
  • Ophthalmologists specialize in eyes.
  • Pulmonologists specialize in the lungs.
  • Rheumatologists specialize in joints, muscles, and autoimmune diseases.
  • Urologists specialize in the urinary tract and urogenital systems.

Diagnostic tests and procedures

Diagnosis of vasculitis can be difficult. Some types of vasculitis cannot be diagnosed with a test. Instead, your healthcare provider will diagnose you based on your symptoms or order specific procedures.

  • A biopsy collects a small sample of your tissue from a specific blood vessel or an organ. A pathologist, someone with special training in laboratory results, will study the sample for specific signs of tissue damage.
  • Blood tests detect levels of certain blood cells and antibodies in your blood.
  • A chest X-ray finds out whether vasculitis is affecting your lungs, your large arteries, such as the aorta, or your lung arteries.
  • A computed tomography (CT) scan looks for signs of granulomatosis with polyangiitis.
  • Echocardiography is an ultrasound test to learn how well the heart is working.
  • A pathergy test diagnoses Behçet’s disease. In this test, a needle pricks the skin, and sometimes a small amount of saline solution may be injected. The test is positive if a red bump or ulcer develops after 2 days.
  • CT coronary angiography looks at your blood vessels for damage, signs of inflammation, blockages, or aneurysms.
  • Positron electron tomography (PET) scan, a type of nuclear scan, detects narrowing and damage in the blood vessels.
  • Ultrasound looks for signs of narrowing and damage in your blood vessels or organs.
  • Urinalysis checks for kidney damage.
  • Fluorescein retinal angiography looks for signs of retinal vasculitis in the eyes.
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