As of September 1st, it is Vascular Disease awareness month. Vascular disease is an abnormal condition of the blood vessels. Blood vessels are the tubes through which blood is pumped throughout the body. Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to nourish every part of the body including the brain, kidney, intestines, arms, legs and the heart itself.
Coronary arteries supply blood to the heart, peripheral arteries carry blood to other tissues and organs throughout your body. Both can have deposits of fat, cholesterol and other substances on the inside of their walls. These deposits are known as plaque. These build ups are what cause blockages of blood supply.
- Blockage from coronary arteries can cause chest pain (angina) or a heart attack.
- If it is the carotid arteries that supply the brain, it can lead to a stroke or mini stroke, this is called a transient ischemic attack or a TIA.
- Blockage in the kidneys can lead to trouble with how they work, uncontrolled high blood pressure and heart failure.
- Blockage in the leg can lead to leg pain or cramps. when you’re active, a condition called claudication, skin colour change, sores or ulcers and your legs feeling tired.
When there is no blood flow to a part of your body, the tissue could die. If this happens, you may lose a limb or organ.
An Aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of any blood vessel. It’s most seen in the aorta, the main blood vessel leaving the heart. you can get an aortic aneurysm in your chest where it’s called thoacic or your stomach where it’s called abdominal.
Small Aneurysms generally pose no threat, But they do put you at risk for other problems:
- Plaque deposits may build up where the aneurysm is.
- A clot may form there then break off and get stuck somewhere else, which could be very dangerous.
- The Aneurysm might get bigger and press on other organs, which causes pain.
Because the artery wall is stretched and thinner at the spot of an Aneurysm, it’s fragile and could burst under stress like a balloon. The sudden rupture of an aortic aneurysm can be deadly.
Raynaud’s Phenomenon (Raynaud’s Disease or Raynaud’s Syndrome)
When you’re cold or excited, the small arteries of your fingers and sometimes your toes may twitch or cramp. This can temporarily shut down blood supply to the area, making your skin look white or bluish and feel cold or numb.
The working conditions of some jobs bring on Raynaud’s. Or the symptoms might be related to underlying diseases including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma.
This rare disease most often affects the small and medium sized arteries and veins in your arms and legs. They swell up and may get blocked by clots, cutting off blood supply to your fingers, hands, toes, or feet. These body parts will hurt, even when you’re resting. If it’s severe, you might need to amputate fingers or toes that have died.
People with Buerger’s disease may also have Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Although the cause is unknown, there’s a strong association with tobacco use — including cigars and chewing tobacco — and secondhand smoke.
Peripheral Venous Disease and Varicose Veins
Unlike arteries, veins have flaps inside called valves. When your muscles contract, the valves open and blood moves through the tubes. When your muscles relax, the valves close so the blood only flows in one direction.
Damaged valves may not close completely as your muscles relax. This allows blood to flow in both directions, and it can pool.
Varicose veins are an example of this. They may bulge like purple ropes under your skin. They can also look like small red or purple bursts on your knees, calves, or thighs. These spider veins are caused by swollen small blood vessels called capillaries. At the end of the day, your legs might ache, sting, or swell.
More women than men get varicose veins, and they often run in families. Pregnancy, being very overweight, or standing for long times can cause them.
Because the blood is moving more slowly, it may stick to the sides of the veins, and clots can form.
Blood Clots in Veins (VTE)
A blood clot in a vein inside a muscle, usually in your lower leg, thigh, or pelvis, is a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If it breaks loose and travels to your lungs, it becomes a pulmonary embolism (PE). These clots in your veins are called venous thromboembolisms, or VTE.
They’re usually caused by:
- Conditions that slow blood flow or make blood thicker, such as congestive heart failure and certain tumors
- Damaged valves in a vein
- Damaged veins from injury or infection
- Genetic disorders that make your blood more likely to clot
- Hormones, such as estrogen from pregnancy and birth control pills
- Long bed rest or not being able to move much
- Surgery, especially some operations on your hips and legs
Damaged vein valves or a DVT can cause long-term blood pooling and swelling in your legs, too. That’s called chronic venous insufficiency. If you don’t do anything about it, fluid will leak into the tissues in your ankles and feet. It may eventually make your skin break down and wear away.
Blood clotting disorders
Some illnesses make your blood more likely to form clots. You could be born with one, or something may happen to you. These disorders can cause:
- Higher-than-normal levels of clot-forming substances, including fibrinogen, factor 8, and prothrombin
- Not enough blood-thinning (anticoagulant) proteins, including antithrombin, protein C, and protein S
- Trouble breaking down fibrin, the protein mesh that holds clots together
- Damage to the endothelium, the lining of the blood vessel
Your lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump like your blood circulation system does. It relies on valves in the vessels and muscle contractions to keep the lymph moving.
When vessels or nodes are missing or don’t work right, fluid can build up and cause swelling, most often in your arms or legs. This is called lymphedema.
Primary lymphedema is rare. It happens when you’re born without certain lymph vessels or when you have a problem with the tubes themselves.
A blockage or interruption of the lymphatic system is called secondary lymphedema. It can happen because of:
- Cancer and cancer treatments, including radiation
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
- Scar tissue formation
- Serious injury