Inflammation of the small blood vessels of the body is known as leukocytoclastic vasculitis. This disorder causes damage to the blood vessels, leading to bleeding and sometimes damage to surrounding tissues. People suffering from this issue may experience an acute attack, or the condition may become chronic and recur repeatedly.
The skin is the main area where leukocytoclastic vasculitis manifests, particularly on the legs, though it can occur in other areas as well. The discolorations it causes are known as purpura. These small spots, caused by bleeding under the skin, can be red or purple in color and are typically raised from the skin. They may be painful or itchy, although in some patients the purpura cause no discomfort at all. The lesions may remain small, or they may grow and combine to form larger spots and sometimes open sores. In some cases, the purpura obstruct blood flow to the skin, causing tissue death, or necrosis.
Leukocytoclastic vasculitis can also occur internally. It may affect certain organs, usually the kidneys or portions of the gastrointestinal tract, though the heart, lungs, and nervous system can also be involved. It can also occur in the joints. Inflammation of these blood vessels is generally of more concern than when only the skin is affected, as this condition can be fatal.
There are a variety of triggers that can cause leukocytoclastic vasculitis, though in many cases, the problem arises spontaneously with no identifiable cause. Often it appears to be caused by a misguided immune response, where the body mistakenly sees its own blood vessels as an intruder and attacks them. An allergic reaction to certain drugs, particularly antibiotics, may be to blame. Other substances, such as food additives, may also set off an allergic reaction. Some diseases and infections, including hepatitis, HIV, and Crohn's disease, can be associated with attacks as well.
Treatment of leukocytoclastic vasculitis can vary depending on the patient's situation. A doctor will typically start with the patient's history to determine if he or she has any risk factors which may indicate the underlying cause. Those who are obviously suffering from an allergy should eliminate contact with the allergen immediately. Immunosuppressive drugs may be useful for those who develop the disorder due to an autoimmune response. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids can help decrease the damage from the inflammation and clear up the purpura.