Polyarteritis nodosa (PAN) is a rare disease that causes redness and swelling (inflammation) of the medium sized tubes that carry blood around the body (blood vessels). This inflammation causes poor blood flow and leads to damage of affected organs. PAN most commonly affects the arteries in the skin, nerves, gut (intestinal tract), and kidneys. If only the skin is affected, it is called cutaneous PAN. If only one organ is affected, it is called localized PAN. Symptoms of PAN depend on the organ system involved. Symptoms may include general tiredness (fatigue), fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, pain in muscles or joints, skin sores, abdominal pain, blood in the stool, shortness of breath, chest pain, high blood pressure, and numbness. PAN can sometimes cause an increase in the size of part of a blood vessel (aneurysm), which can cause the vessel to break open (rupture).
The exact cause of PAN is unknown. Researchers believe it can be triggered by a reaction to a medication or a reaction to an infection (either bacterial or viral). These reactions are usually due to an issue with the body’s immune system. Men usually have PAN more often than women and people typically develop the condition between the ages of 40 and 60. Your doctor will use a combination of your symptoms, physical exam, blood tests and imaging tests (x-rays, MRIs and CTs) to diagnose PAN. In some cases, removal and examination of an affected area (biopsy) may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment of PAN varies, depending on the underlying cause and affected area. If you have been diagnosed with PAN, speak with your doctor to discuss the most current treatment options. Support groups are also a good source of additional information.