GPA is abnormal inflammation of the blood vessels, which is also called a vasculitis. GPA involves the small and medium-sized blood vessels throughout the body. The inflammation in the blood vessel does not allow blood to flow properly, so the cells do not get the oxygen they need. This causes tissue injury called granulomatous inflammation. A granuloma is a type of cellular inflammation that can usually be seen on biopsies of affected organs. The cause of GPA is not known.
Most commonly, GPA affects the sinuses, lungs, and kidneys, but also can affect the eyes, ears, skin, nerves, joints, and other organs. Symptoms can develop over days to months. The first symptoms generally appear in the respiratory tract (e.g., nose, sinuses, and lungs). The symptoms include nasal congestion, frequent nosebleeds, shortness of breath, and cough that may produce bloody phlegm. Other early symptoms can include joint pain, decreased hearing, skin rashes, eye redness and/or vision changes, fatigue, fever, appetite and weight loss, night sweats, and numbness or loss of movement in the fingers, toes, or limbs.
If not treated quickly and aggressively, organ tissue can be damaged, sometimes permanently. There are several medications that help treat GPA.