Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA): Know the signs

Likely triggered by an abnormal immune response, granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA) causes the inflammation of the blood vessels. This most commonly occurs in the sinuses, lungs and kidneys. But the signs and symptoms of this type of vasculitis can vary depending on which blood vessels — and as a result, which organ systems — it affects.

Symptoms of GPA usually develop over 4 to 12 months, but they can also occur suddenly. In addition, not all people who have GPA experience the same symptoms, and the severity of the condition varies. Most people who have GPA notice the first symptoms in areas of the respiratory tract, such as the sinuses or lungs. Signs and symptoms of GPA might include:

  • A runny nose that discharges pus
  • Nasal congestion
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing that might be accompanied by bloody phlegm

You might also experience:

  • Muscle pain or swollen joints
  • Diminished hearing
  • Red eyes or changes in vision
  • Rashes or sores that can become ulcers
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite with weight loss
  • Episodes of nighttime sweating that soak your clothes or bedding (night sweats)
  • Numbness or limitation of movement in your limbs

GPA often affects the kidneys and can cause loss of kidney function. Your doctor might do tests to determine whether GPA is affecting your kidneys.

Keep in mind that GPA is an uncommon disorder and that many other, more common conditions can cause similar symptoms. However, if you think you might have symptoms of GPA, see your doctor. GPA can get worse quickly. Early diagnosis is critical to getting effective treatment.

Jul. 17, 2014 See more In-depth