What are the symptoms of CNS vasculitis?
The signs and symptoms of CNS vasculitis are similar to those encountered in having a stroke because they result from a reduction or sudden stoppage of blood flow to the brain. In general, while the disease may present abruptly, it more commonly causes a waxing and waning illness where there are multiple neurologic signs and symptoms which evolve over many weeks or months. There may be transient ischemic attacks or brief periods of visual loss, inability to use an arm or a leg or speech impairment. Severe headache that is unresponsive to conventional therapy is also a very common symptom. On occasion involvement of the spinal cord may also cause weakness of the arms and legs. Other symptoms that could suggest CNS vasculitis are far less specific and include profound loss of memory and concentration (i.e. dementia), an altered level of consciousness and problems with bowel or bladder function.
My sister and I are sitting in the doctor’s office as he discusses this new suspected culprit with us. A fellow named Mike walks in, and the doctor begins talking to Mike about Dad’s case. We’re kind of alarmed at this, but the doctor says, “It’s okay, Mike here is a medical student.” Okey doke. The doctor says, “Okay, Mike, here are your symptoms…” and rattles off what’s been going on with dad. Mike thinks for a second and says, “Huh. Vasculitis?”
Those symptoms listed above are exactly Dad’s symptoms. No more, and no less. And here’s the deal: Vasculitis is treatable. The first part of the treatment is high doses of Prednisone, which Dad had been taking smaller amounts of, so the doctor sent him home with a scrip for more of that. If things start to improve, he’ll then move to the second, more aggressive drug, cyclophosphamide. If the enemy is in fact Vasculitis, we may start to see improvement in dad in a few weeks, and many of the problems we’re seeing now would be reduced, and possibly eliminated. Needless to say, we’re hoping that’s the case.
In the meantime, we got Dad out of the hospital and into his new room at the assisted living facility. It’s a really nice place he’s at, and not only does he know some people there (including his sister and my wife’s great aunt), but he’s very much familiar with the staff as well, so he’s comfortable with the place. My sister and I got his room set up and plan to do a little more, but we think he’ll be happy and comfortable there. If either the rehab or the drug treatments help him improve enough, he can always move to one of the larger rooms that would be a little more home-y, but for now I think he’s quite satisfied.
Thanks for everyone’s positive thoughts and well wishes. I’ll be back in the office on Sunday with mirthful tales of funnybooks and boardgames.