A vascular disease is a condition that affects the arteries and/or veins, excluding those in the heart. For more information on heart conditions, visit our Cardiac Services page. Most often, vascular disease affects blood flow, either by blocking or weakening blood vessels, or by damaging the valves that are found in veins. Organs and other body structures may be damaged by vascular disease as a result of decreased or completely blocked blood flow.
Below you will find some of the most common vascular conditions, which require medical attention.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)
An abdominal aortic aneurysm, also called AAA or triple A, is a bulging, weakened area in the wall of the aorta (the largest artery in the body) in the abdomen region, resulting in an abnormal widening or ballooning greater than 50 percent of the vessel's normal diameter (width).
A bulging, weakened area in the wall of a blood vessel.
Atherosclerosis is a systemic, progressive, chronic vascular disease process that particularly affects the carotid arteries (major blood supply to the brain), coronary arteries (blood supply to the heart), and the peripheral arteries. Artherosclerosis causes a thickening or hardening of the arteries due to a buildup of plaque in the inner lining of an artery. Plaque is made up of deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium, and fibrin, and can develop in medium or large arteries. This causes the artery wall to becomes thickened and loses its elasticity.
A cerebral aneurysm (also called an intracranial aneurysm or brain aneurysm) is a bulging, weakened area in the wall of an artery in the brain, resulting in an abnormal widening or ballooning. These are typically managed by neurosurgeons.
Carotid Artery Disease
Carotid artery disease, also called carotid artery stenosis, occurs when the carotid arteries, the main blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood to the brain, become narrowed. The narrowing of the carotid arteries is most commonly related to atherosclerosis (a build-up of plaque, which is a deposit of fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium, and fibrin in the inner lining of an artery). Atherosclerosis, or "hardening of the arteries," is a vascular disease (disease of the arteries and veins). Carotid artery disease is similar to coronary artery disease, in which blockages occur in the arteries of the heart, and may cause a heart attack or stroke.
Chronic Venous Insufficiency
Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when the leg veins do not allow blood to travel back to the heart. (Arteries carry blood away from the heart, while veins carry blood to the heart). Problems with valves in the veins can cause the blood to flow both directions, not just toward the heart. These valves that are not working properly can cause blood in the legs to pool. If chronic venous insufficiency is left untreated, pain, swelling, and leg ulcers may result.
Chronic venous insufficiency does not pose a serious health threat, but the condition can be disabling and cause pain.
Claudication refers to limping because of pain in the thigh, calf, and/or buttocks that occurs when walking. Claudication may be a symptom of peripheral arterial disease (PAD). PAD is caused by a narrowing or blockage of arteries in the legs and/or aorta (the largest artery in the body and the primary blood vessel leading from the heart to the body), which may cause decreased blood flow to the muscles of the calf, thigh, or buttocks. This decreased blood flow may cause claudication. The pain associated with claudication occurs with walking but disappears at rest.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot develops in a vein deep in the body outside of the heart.
Peripheral Vascular Disease
Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a slow and progressive circulation disorder. It may involve disease in any of the blood vessels outside of the heart and diseases of the lymph vessels—the arteries, veins, or lymphatic vessels. Organs supplied by these vessels such as the brain, heart, and legs, may not receive adequate blood flow for ordinary function. However, the legs and feet are most commonly affected, thus the name peripheral vascular disease.
A pulmonary embolism (PE) is a blood clot that develops in the veins and travels to an artery in the lung, forming an occlusion (blockage) of the artery.
Raynaud's phenomenon or, simply, Raynaud's, is a disorder characterized by decreased blood flow to the fingers, and less frequently to the ears, toes, nipples, knees, or nose. It is caused by spasms in the blood vessels, usually as a response to cold exposure, stress or emotional upset.
Renal Vascular Disease
Renal vascular disease is the name given to a variety of complications that affect the arteries and veins of the kidneys. These complications affect the blood circulation of the kidneys, and may cause damage to the tissues of the kidneys, kidney failure, and/or high blood pressure.
Inflammation of a vein that occurs when a blood clot forms. Thrombophlebitis typically effects veins close to the surface of the skin.
Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm
A thoracic aortic aneurysm, also called TAA, is a bulging, weakened area in the wall of the aorta (the largest artery in the body), resulting in an abnormal widening or ballooning greater than 50 percent of the vessel's normal diameter (width).
Enlarged veins that can be blue, red or flesh colored that occur when the valves in the veins that carry blood from the legs toward the heart no longer function, causing blood to pool in the legs. Occassionally, vericose veins can bleed, but more commonly they cause thrombophlebitis.
Medical Management of Vascular Conditions
Overview of the Vascular System