Arteritis (ar-tuh-RYE-tus) is inflammation of one or more arteries, the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
Oxygen-rich blood flows out of the heart through the aorta, which then subdivides into smaller arteries that carry blood to all parts of the body. Arteritis causes arteries to become inflamed and swollen, which can decrease blood flow. Body tissues that receive too little blood and the oxygen it carries can become damaged.
The different types of arteritis are classified by the organ systems (from the heart to the nervous system) that they affect. Doctors don't know the exact cause of arteritis, but it may be the result of a faulty immune system response that targets the body's own tissues. Sometimes it's associated with autoimmune disorders or an infection.
Arteritis can cause various symptoms, some of which are common with other conditions, so it can be difficult to diagnose. Treatment usually involves steroid medications or drugs that suppress the immune system. Early treatment can help prevent tissue damage, so doctors often start treatment before arteritis is officially diagnosed.
Many people with arteritis improve with treatment and go on to make a full recovery.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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