About half the people who have Takayasu's arteritis develop a general feeling of being unwell, a fever, night sweats, tiredness, weight loss and joint pain. This phase gradually goes away and is replaced by chronic inflammation and damaging changes to the aorta and its branches.
The other half of the people who have this disease have symptoms only of chronic inflammation and damage to the aorta.
In advanced stages of the disease, the walls of the arteries may become weak and develop aneurysms. These are weak spots that bulge out from the artery walls due to the pressure of the blood flowing through the artery. If they aren't discovered, they can burst and cause bleeding inside the body.
The blood vessels that branch off of the aorta are particularly at risk. Any or all of them may become blocked. Fainting and temporary interruptions of the blood flow to the brain and head may occur along with weakness of the jaws when chewing or speaking or the arms.
The face and arms may lose muscle mass. Disturbances in a person's ability to see are common. Sometimes the portion of the aorta that runs through the abdomen may be affected. This can cause serious increases in the blood pressure of the kidneys.
The involvement of the coronary arteries, severe high blood pressure or changes in the aorta's ability to work efficiently can lead to heart failure. Much less often, blockages in the arteries of the lungs can cause high blood pressure in the lungs.
Causes and Risk Factors
Takayasu's arteritis occurs throughout the world. However, persons with the following characteristics have a higher risk of developing Takayasu's arteritis:
- Being between the ages of 15 and 30
- Being a woman. (Women are about eight times more likely than men to develop this condition.)
- Being a young Asian woman.