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Is Vasculitis Causing Too Many Sores?

For 11 years I have been getting from two to nine sores on my body and finally was diagnosed with a mild case of vasculitis of the skin.  I've been on antibiotics for almost a year now. Can you recommend anything else? 

Answer (Published 10/4/2007)

Vasculitis is an inflammatory disease of blood vessels that can affect any number of organs, including the skin. The sores that you get result from leakages of blood from damaged blood vessels. The cause of vasculitis is unknown, but there is probably an autoimmune aspect to it. That is, the immune system is mistakenly attacking the body’s own tissues, causing inflammation and damage. Vasculitis can occur on its own or be a component of other autoimmune disorders such as lupus. In addition to localized injury, patients with vasculitis often experience generalized symptoms: fevers, weight loss, fatigue, and diffuse aches and pains.

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Because vasculitis appears to be autoimmune in nature and is not an infectious disease, antibiotics (which work against bacteria) are unlikely to help. The conventional medical treatments for autoimmune disorders are steroids and other immunosuppressive drugs that are useful for short-term management of the worst crises but can cause terrible toxicity when they are used long term. Instead, I recommend several measures that can bring about dramatic improvement in patients with autoimmune disorders. First, follow my anti-inflammatory diet.

In particular:

  • Eliminate cow’s milk and cow’s milk products (substitute other calcium sources).
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables (make sure that they are organically grown).
  • Eliminate polyunsaturated vegetable oils, margarine, vegetable shortening, all partially hydrogenated oils, all foods (such as deep-fried foods) that might contain trans-fatty acids. Use extra-virgin olive oil as your main fat.
  • Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Take two to three grams of fish oil a day.
    Several supplements can also help:
  • Take anti-inflammatory herbs such as ginger and turmeric. Try my new unsweetened turmeric tea. Take a combination of ginger, turmeric, and other botanicals with anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Consider taking grape seed extract, a source of powerful antioxidant compounds called OPCS (oligomeric proanthocyanidins). Research has shown these compounds to be useful in protecting blood vessels, making them more elastic and less likely to leak.
    Aside from dietary measures, note that:
  • Because autoimmune diseases tend to flare up in response to emotional ups and downs, I suggest that you also try some form of mind/body treatment - hypnosis may be especially helpful. Psychotherapy, biofeedback and guided imagery are other good options.
  • You might try consulting a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. I have seen this system produce good results with vasculitis and other forms of autoimmunity.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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