Churg-Strauss Syndrome

What is Churg-Strauss Syndrome?

Churg-Strauss syndrome is a rare disease also known as eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis. The condition involves inflammation in tissue throughout the body or even the blood cells themselves.

The chronic inflammation damages the organs and joints, resulting in damage throughout the body. It’s unclear what causes this condition, but it is known that it is not genetic, nor is it contagious.

What are the Symptoms of Churg-Strauss Syndrome?

Since blood vessels throughout the body are damaged or constricted, a wide range of subtly connected symptoms appear.

Symptoms include

  • Asthma attacks, especially with no prior history
  • Bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, first noticed as blood in your vomit or stool
  • Numbness of the extremities
  • A distinctive red rash as the blood vessels on the surface of the skin break down
  • Weight loss and difficulty regaining it
  • General allergy symptoms like a running nose and red face
  • Chronic inflammation of the nasal tissue

When you just can’t seem to shake serious allergy symptoms and start to feel achy all over, there’s a two in a million chance it could be Churg-Strauss syndrome.

Churg-Strauss Syndrome Causes

While the overall causes of Churg-Strauss syndrome are unknown, the major risk factors behind its development are asthma and/or allergic reactions leading to the over-activation of immune functions, and it is usually seen in people who have sudden onset asthma in adulthood. Specifically, significant history of nasal allergies, along with chronic sinusitis are considered to be risk factors as well. Asthma treatments using leukotriene receptor antagonists have been thought to be correlated with Churg-Strauss syndrome; however, this relationship has not been proven. There is also debate surrounding the role of steroid withdrawal in regard to treating severe asthma and allergies, and whether the discontinuation of steroids uncovers underlying and longstanding idiopathic Churg-Strauss syndrome, or if it could be the cause. Additionally, genetic factors may predispose some to developing Churg-Strauss syndrome, though the specifics of this particular cause are unknown as well.

How is Churg-Strauss Syndrome Treated?

After confirming the condition with a biopsy of the damaged tissue showing the inflammation, it’s time to control the actions of the immune system.

Treatment includes

Drugs that suppress your natural immune function require careful balancing so you don’t become susceptible to common infections. Steroids are used in cases without serious organ damage, and chemotherapy is used when the patient is already suffering with serious symptoms and secondary damage.

Churg-Strauss Syndrome Prevention

Given the fact that the causes of Churg-Strauss syndrome are unknown, prevention is also rather difficult to pin down. Since it is thought that there are genetic factors and environmental factors that may lead to the development of Churg-Strauss syndrome, monitoring signs and symptoms is important in preventing complications; however, it is imperative to consider other, more common conditions that could mirror Churg-Strauss syndrome, including bacterial pneumonia.

Considering the role that over-activation of the immune system is thought to play in the development of Churg-Strauss syndrome, monitoring and treating allergies and chronic sinusitis may be helpful in preventing over-activation of the immune system. Additionally, since so much is unknown about the causes of the syndrome, there are no current standards for lifestyle changes that may help reduce risk. It is also important to consider the role that certain medications may play as well. Though the connections between the development of Churg-Strauss syndrome and the use of leukotriene receptor antagonists and steroids are not proven, further study could shed light on their role, if some type of correlation is to be seen.

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Last Reviewed:
September 18, 2016
Last Updated:
December 06, 2017
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