In October 2010, 15 year old Lauren Currie thought she had picked up a chesty cough. When her mother Adrienne took her to her doctor, he dismissed it as a chest infection and prescribed antibiotics.
The next day, Lauren began coughing up blood; the GP reassured the family there was nothing to worry about, but said they should go to hospital the following day to get her checked out.
After minutes of arriving at the hospital the next morning, the family was surrounded by a crash team, who told them Lauren had pneumonia and within 48 hours she had died.
Lauren’s death certificate stated that her cause of death was vasculitis – a condition where blood vessels become inflamed, cutting off the blood supply to vital organs and causing them to fail. Vasculitis is as common as bacterial meningitis, even though many doctors are not aware of it.
Around 3,000 people develop vasculitis each year. Lauren was found to have a rare and aggressive form called Wegener’s granulomatosis, which affects the nose, kidneys, and lungs. Around a fifth of those with this type of vasculitis will die within a year, with a quarter dead within 5 years.
‘One of the most common symptoms in any form of vasculitis is tiredness, as any inflammation causes this,’ Professor Kuntal Chakravarty, a rheumatologist at Queen’s Hospital, Essex, explained to the Daily Mail.
As well as excessive tiredness, it can produce an acne-like rash caused by inflammation of the blood vessels beneath the skin. This could be itchy, and usually affects the upper or lower limbs or whole body.
Other symptoms to look for are persistent ear, nose and throat infections. With Lauren’s form, patients can sometimes develop symptoms such as blocked sinuses or nose, and a nosebleed.