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Diseases > Microscopic Polyangiitis (MPA) > What is it going to do to me?

What are the Signs and Symptoms of MPA?

Often, the first signs of MPA are similar to the flu. People start feeling unwell and commonly have a fever, achiness, malaise and weight loss. These symptoms can last for some time. As these symptoms are not specific the diagnosis can be difficult in the early stages.

Other symptoms of MPA really depend on which organs are affected. If the kidneys are involved, a patient may experience fatigue, swelling of the legs, or shortness of breath. Kidney involvement can come on slowly or in some cases very quickly leading to rapid kidney failure.

If the lungs are involved then a patient may notice shortness of breath, a cough, or chest pain/discomfort. Lung disease is due to “inflammation” of the lung tissue. In some cases, lung involvement can be very dramatic and life threatening. If lung disease is very severe there can be bleeding into the lung. In this case a patient may notice themselves coughing up blood. Lung involvement is usually seen on a chest x-ray or through a CT-scan of the chest. It can sometimes be confused with pneumonia.

Signs of MPA can also appear on the skin. Little red dots called purpura can appear on the skin. This can look like little bruises. This usually affects the lower part of the body.

The eyes can also be affected by MPA. Symptoms can include conjunctivitis (redness of the eye) or inflammation of other parts of the eye (uveitis).

MPA can affect the nerves. While this does not usually cause pain, it can cause a sudden loss of strength (e.g., foot drop or wrist drop). Early diagnosis and treatment of MPA is important to avoid damage to the nerves.

MPA can also affect the joints. Some people can have obvious swelling of the joints that can jump around from joint to joint. Others just ache all over.

We now know that people with chronic inflammation have a higher chance of developing heart disease. So if you have MPA, make sure you do everything you can to reduce your risk of heart disease. Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol at healthy levels and if you have diabetes, manage your blood sugar.

Work and MPA

Your ability to work will depend on the severity of your symptoms. In some cases, MPA can be quite debilitating at first and it may significantly interfere with your work. In some the disease can be permanently disabling. The good news is that once your symptoms are under control, there is hope that you can resume your work. If you are able to continue working, remember to balance your activities with the need to rest and conserve energy. Try to keep your stress levels low.

Travel and MPA

Although traveling is still possible when you have MPA, it will depend on the stage of your disease. Don’t forget that MPA is a serious illness. It can also flare up at any time. Before going on any trip, always check with your doctor and pack extra medication if required. See our travel checklist for extra tips.

Sex and MPA

MPA often causes significant fatigue, feeling generally unwell, fevers, and weight loss. With this can come a loss of sex drive and emotional hardships. This can create barriers to sexual needs, ability and satisfaction. Take comfort knowing that, with good treatment, sex and intimacy can be restored and maintained in people with MPA … it can even draw partners closer together, especially through improved communication.

For more information on intimacy, a great book is Rheumatoid Arthritis: Plan to Win by Sheryl Koehn, Taysha Palmer and John Esdaile. Many of the tips in this book can also be applied to people with MPA.

Pregnancy and MPA

Microscopic polyangiitis typically affects individuals over the age of 50 and pregnancy is not a common topic of discussion. Any severe disease can affect fertility as can some of  the medications used to treat MPA. Furthermore, some medications used to treat MPA should not be taken when trying to get pregnant or while breastfeeding. If you have been diagnosed with MPA and want to get pregnant, it is very important to discuss this first with your doctor.

Read more – What can I do about it?