Leukocytoclastic vasculitis (LCV) is an inflammation of the small blood vessels that causes tissue destruction. It can affect the skin or other organs, such as the heart, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract.

LCV is also known as hypersensitivity vasculitis, hypersensitivity angiitis, or cutaneous small vessel vasculitis.

Vasculitis is when the immune system attacks healthy blood vessels, leading to swelling. There is no known cause for the condition. However, people may develop vasculitis from an infection or drug reaction.

LCV commonly causes skin symptoms, such as rashes. It is more common in children and young adults than in adults.

This article explores this type of inflammation in further detail. It also outlines medical conditions that may cause similar symptoms.

Legs of person lying in field of flowersShare on Pinterest
Rieko Honma/Getty Images

The Vasculitis Foundation notes that most people with LCV develop a skin rash with purple, brown, or black spots on their legs, buttocks, or upper body areas.

They may also have blisters, hives, and ulcers.

The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology notes that the damaged blood vessels may leak and cause purple-red, brown, or black raised lesions called palpable purpura. Most of these occur on the legs and may be painful and itchy.

People with severe vessel inflammation may have painful ulcerated lesions.

LCV can also affect other areas of the body, causing:

The following complications may also arise:

Researchers do not know what exactly causes vasculitis, which they treat as an autoimmune illness.

Different factors may be responsible for LCV.

Medications

People may develop vasculitis after taking antibiotics or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Other drugs that may cause vasculitis include:

The symptoms of LCV usually clear up after the person stops taking a particular medication. If a person has organ damage, they may need to take corticosteroids.

Vaccination allergy reaction

LCV may develop after a person receives a vaccine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), severe allergic reactions from vaccines are rare, but they can still happen.

A 2018 study mentions a case in which a person developed hypersensitivity vasculitis due to an allergic reaction after receiving the herpes zoster vaccine.

The person had an itchy rash, tongue and mouth swelling, and a burning sensation for 2 weeks. They developed these symptoms 6 weeks after getting vaccinated.

Infections

Infections, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and syphilis, may also cause LCV.

Vasculitis may also develop after a person contracts a streptococcal upper respiratory tract infection.

There are no specific tests that can diagnose LSV.

However, doctors may ask a person about medications they are taking and infections they may have recently developed if they suspect LSV.

They may also perform the following tests to determine if someone has LCV:

  • Biopsy: Having a biopsy involves removing a small tissue sample for further evaluation under a microscope.
  • Angiography: An angiography is a type of X-ray that allows medical professionals to check for abnormalities in the blood vessels.
  • Blood tests: People may have to undergo different blood tests, including a complete blood count and a liver function test to measure inflammation in the body and check for underlying conditions.

Most LCV cases are idiopathic, meaning they have nothing to do with a medical condition.

Idiopathic LCV usually causes mild symptoms, and a person can find relief by:

  • resting
  • elevating their legs
  • wearing compression stockings
  • taking antihistamines

A healthcare professional may prescribe corticosteroids for up to 6 weeks for people with chronic vasculitis.

Some people may also have to take colchicine or dapsone if they develop ulcers.

Some conditions may cause similar symptoms to LCV, including:

  • Thrombocytopenic purpura: This rare blood disorder forms blood clots in small blood vessels, causing decreased blood flow to the heart, kidneys, and brain. It can cause flat red spots beneath the skin, bleeding, and jaundice.
  • Benign pigmented purpura: This condition causes skin eruptions that may look like red or purple patches. It mostly develops on the lower legs. A biopsy can help provide a diagnosis.
  • Schamberg’s disease: This chronic skin discoloration condition is more common in males than females. A person may have lesions on their lower limbs and other areas of the body. To diagnose this disease, a doctor may examine the skin using a magnifying lens and perform a skin biopsy.

LCV has a low mortality rate, and it rarely leads to complications. In most cases, symptoms improve within weeks or months. The condition can be mild or severe and varies from person to person.

Orange-brown skin discoloration may persist for some time after the inflammation has gone away.

Vasculitis may be life threatening if it affects other organs, such as the kidney, brain, and lungs.

People should consult a doctor if they develop LCV symptoms, such as:

  • raised spots
  • fever
  • burning rashes

They should also let a doctor know if they are taking any medications, as they could be the cause of vasculitis.

LCV is a condition that causes skin rashes, lesions, or blisters. These may develop if a person has an infection or an allergic reaction to a drug.

Most cases resolve within months, but LCV can be life threatening if it affects the brain or lungs.

Healthcare professionals use different tests to diagnose this condition. These include a skin biopsy, X-ray, and blood tests.