Polyarteritis nodosa

Disease database

Polyarteritis nodosa is a rare autoimmune disease that affects the medium-sized arteries in the body. It is characterized by inflammation of the blood vessels, leading to a variety of symptoms and potential complications. Understanding the signs and symptoms of polyarteritis nodosa is crucial for early diagnosis and effective management of the disease.


Fever is one of the most common symptoms of polyarteritis nodosa. It is often persistent and may fluctuate in intensity. The fever is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as fatigue, muscle pain, and weight loss.

Weight Loss

Unexplained weight loss is another hallmark symptom of polyarteritis nodosa. The inflammation in the blood vessels can disrupt the normal functioning of the digestive system, leading to a decreased appetite and subsequent weight loss.

Muscle Pain

Polyarteritis nodosa can cause muscle pain and weakness. This is due to the inflammation affecting the blood supply to the muscles, resulting in discomfort and reduced muscle function. The pain can be localized or widespread, depending on the extent of the disease.


Chronic fatigue is a common complaint among individuals with polyarteritis nodosa. The underlying inflammation and the body’s immune response can drain energy levels, leading to persistent fatigue and a lack of motivation.

Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain is a significant symptom of polyarteritis nodosa, as the disease often affects the arteries supplying blood to the abdominal organs. The pain can be severe and may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Skin Rash

A characteristic skin rash called livedo reticularis can develop in individuals with polyarteritis nodosa. This rash appears as a mottled, net-like pattern on the skin, typically on the legs and arms. It is caused by the inflammation affecting the blood vessels close to the skin’s surface.


Polyarteritis nodosa can lead to hypertension or high blood pressure. The inflammation in the arteries can disrupt the normal regulation of blood flow, resulting in increased pressure within the blood vessels.

Neurological Symptoms

Neurological symptoms can occur in individuals with polyarteritis nodosa. These may include headaches, dizziness, confusion, and even seizures. The inflammation in the blood vessels can affect the blood supply to the brain, leading to these neurological manifestations.

Joint Pain

Polyarteritis nodosa can cause joint pain and swelling. The inflammation in the blood vessels can affect the joints, leading to discomfort, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. The joints most commonly affected are the knees, ankles, and wrists.

Kidney Dysfunction

Kidney dysfunction is a serious complication of polyarteritis nodosa. The inflammation in the blood vessels can impair the kidneys’ ability to filter waste products from the blood, leading to kidney damage and potentially kidney failure. Symptoms of kidney dysfunction may include changes in urine output, swelling in the legs and ankles, and high blood pressure.

Treatment and Management

While there is no cure for polyarteritis nodosa, early diagnosis and treatment can help manage the symptoms and prevent complications. The primary goal of treatment is to suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation. This is typically achieved through the use of immunosuppressive medications such as corticosteroids and other immunosuppressants.

In addition to medication, lifestyle modifications can also play a role in managing polyarteritis nodosa. These may include:

  • Quitting smoking: Smoking can worsen the symptoms and progression of the disease.
  • Eating a healthy diet: A balanced diet can support overall health and help manage weight loss and fatigue.
  • Regular exercise: Gentle exercise can help improve muscle strength and reduce fatigue.
  • Stress management: Stress can exacerbate symptoms, so finding healthy coping mechanisms is important.

It is essential for individuals with polyarteritis nodosa to work closely with their healthcare team to develop a personalized treatment plan. Regular follow-up appointments and monitoring of symptoms and blood work are crucial to ensure the disease is being effectively managed.

In conclusion, polyarteritis nodosa is a rare autoimmune disease that can cause a range of symptoms and complications. Early recognition of the signs and symptoms is vital for prompt diagnosis and treatment. While there is no cure, appropriate medical intervention and lifestyle modifications can help manage the disease and improve quality of life for individuals living with polyarteritis nodosa.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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