It is essential to obtain a diagnosis of vasculitis as early as possible to enable appropriate treatment. Any delay may result in further permanent damage. The methods for diagnosing vasculitis vary depending on the disease concerned – see Individual Diseases.

However, it is important to realise that diagnosing vasculitis can be problematic for the physician, in part because most of these diseases are rare. Many patients develop symptoms which may be attributable to many diseases as any organ can be affected. The symptoms are often non-specific and often mimic other more common conditions. Unfortunately because of these difficulties diagnosis can be missed or delayed for some time.

Making the right diagnosis will depend on the patient’s symptoms, what the doctor finds when examining the patient and often a combination of blood tests, x-rays (or other scans such as MRI and PET) and often a biopsy (taking a small piece of tissue) from an affected area. There is no single test for any of the types of vasculitis.

Once the diagnosis has been made the doctor should discuss with the patient any treatment that is required. Most patients will require some treatment. In some cases of severe disease treatment needs to be given urgently; occasionally in very mild cases no treatment at all is required.