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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Polyarteritis nodosa

Other Names for this Disease
  • PAN
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What is polyarteritis nodosa?

How might polyarteritis nodosa be treated?

What is polyarteritis nodosa?

Polyarteritis nodosa is a serious blood vessel disease in which medium-sized arteries become swollen and damaged.[1] It occurs when certain immune cells attack the affected arteries preventing vital oxygen and nourishment. Signs and symptoms may include fever, fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss, muscle and joint aches, and abdominal pain. The skin may show rashes, swelling, ulcers, and lumps.[2] When nerve cells are involved numbness, pain, burning, and weakness may be present.[2] Polyarteritis nodosa can cause serious health complications including strokes, seizures, and kidney failure. Treatment often includes steroids and other drugs to suppress the immune system.[2]
Last updated: 1/16/2012

How might polyarteritis nodosa be treated?

Few people with polyarteritis nodosa have mild disease that remains stable with nonaggressive therapy; because of the risk for serious health complications, aggressive therapy is often recommended. Treatment may include prednisone in divided doses. Additional therapy, such as cyclophosphamide, chlorambucil, azathioprine, methotrexate, dapsone, cyclosporine, or plasma exchange, may also be recommended. The goal of therapy is remission (to have no active disease) within 6 months or so. At this point the person may be maintained on cyclophosphamide (or other therapy) for a year, before it is tapered and withdrawn over the course of 3 to 6 months.

It is very important that people undergoing treatment for polyarteritis nodosa be monitored closely for toxic effects of the drugs or for signs of worsening disease. This monitoring may involve blood counts, urinalyses, serum chemistries, and the ESR on at least monthly intervals.[1]
Last updated: 1/16/2012

  1. Sergent JS. Polyarteritis and Related Disorders. In: Firestein. Kelley’s Textbook of Rheumatology, 8th ed. Philadelphia PA: WB Saunders Company; 2008;
  2. Polyarteritis nodosa. MedlinePlus. 2010; Accessed 1/16/2012.