The vascular system is vulnerable to various diseases that affect the circulatory system. At Reading Cardiology Associates, our team of specialists diagnose and treat various diseases affecting the vascular system. For more information, call our office or schedule an appointment online.
What is Vascular Disease?
Vascular disease or vasculopathy is a condition affecting the blood vessels that remove waste from your tissues and carry oxygen and nutrients in the body. vascular diseases happen because of plaque (consisting of fat, cholesterol, and other substances) which slows down or blocks blood flow inside the arteries or veins.
There are three types of blood vessels in your body and they include:
- Arteries are tube-like vessels with inner muscles that carry oxygenated blood and nutrients from your heart and distribute it through your entire body.
- Veins are flexible hollow-shaped vessels with flaps called val aves and their function is to carry deoxygenated blood from your organs and back to your heart.
- Capillaries are the smallest blood vessels in the vascular system. They are tiny delicate vessels with thin walls that allow oxygen and nutrients to move through your organs and tissues. They connect arteries and veins.
What Are Types of Vascular Disease?
There are different types of vascular disease. The most common include:
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
Peripheral artery disease (also called peripheral arterial disease) is a common condition primarily caused by the accumulation or build-up of fatty plaque which is called atherosclerosis. This leads to the narrowing of the arteries causing blood flow restriction to other parts of the body, especially the legs and arms. PAD can happen in any blood vessel, but it is more common in the legs than in the arms.
Blood clots in the veins (Venous thromboembolism (VTE)
This is a general term referring to blood clots in your veins inside a muscle in the lower leg, pelvis, or thigh including:
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot deep in the vein, mostly in the leg or arms.
- Pulmonary embolism (PE) occurs when a DVT large clot breaks free from a vein wall and travels to the lungs blocking blood supply partially or fully.
An aneurysm is a bulge or ballooning in the blood vessel wall mostly where it branches from. You can develop an aneurysm in any blood vessel, but they most commonly affect the aorta, which is the main artery in your heart. A raptured ruptured aneurysm can be life-threatening.
Other types of vascular disease include Varicose veins, coronary artery disease, and chronic venous insufficiency.
What Causes Vascular Diseases?
Causes of the vascular disease depend on the specific disease including:
How Is a Vascular Disease Diagnosed?
Our cardiologists at Vascular Cardiology Associates will perform a physical exam and ask you about your medical and family history of vascular diseases and evaluate your symptoms. Your cardiologist may also ask you to take your socks or shoes off before examining you. Based on the information gathered during your exam, your cardiologist may do diagnostic testing to see inside your blood vessels and to confirm or rule out vascular disease. The tests may include:
- Blood tests
- Vascular ultrasound
- CT angiography
- MR angiography
- Aorta scan
- Catheter angiography
- Peripheral angiogram
How Is a Vascular Disease Treated?
Treatment is based on your diagnosis, symptoms, medical history, and overall body health. Your doctor will personalize your treatment plan which may include a combination of the following:
Lifestyle changes such as:
- Regular exercise
- Quitting smoking, avoiding second-hand smoke and tobacco products
- Weight loss
- Stress management
- A healthy diet plan to lower high blood sugar and cholesterol
Surgery and/or Medication
Your cardiologist may prescribe the following medicines:
- Cholesterol medication
- Blood clot-dissolving drugs
- Blood pressure drugs
- Blood thinners
For severe cases, your cardiologist may recommend angioplasty, stenting, and vein ablation to clear or widen blood vessels.
Who Is at Risk for Vascular Diseases?
Risk factors vary depending on the specific disease. Common risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- Sex/gender (Men are at higher risk than women.)
- Family history of vascular disease, stroke, or heart attack
- High levels of cholesterol and triglycerides
- Lack of physical activity
- Being overweight or obese
- Age – your risk of some diseases is higher as you get older
- Infection or injury that damages your veins
- Taking hormonal birth control
- Sitting or standing for long periods