Central nervous system (CNS) vasculitis is an inflammation of blood vessel walls in the brain or spine (the brain and spine make up the central nervous system.) Vasculitis is the inflammation of the blood vessels, the network of hollow tubes that carry blood throughout the body. It can affect any type and size blood vessel. If blood flow in a vessel because of inflammation is reduced or stopped, the parts of the body that receive blood from that vessel begin to die.
How the vessels in the brain become inflamed is not entirely clear. In some vasculitis diseases, autoantibodies attack white blood cells, which attack vessel walls and cause inflammation and destruction of the vessel wall. Infection caused by a virus can also cause CNS vasculitis.
CNS vasculitis can be a serious condition. The inflamed vessel wall can block the flow of oxygen to the brain, causing a loss of brain function. In some cases, CNS vasculitis is life threatening.
CNS vasculitis is usually treated with steroids. High-dose steroids such as prednisone, in combination with medicines that fight autoimmune diseases, are generally used.