Vascular disease is one of the most common problems you will encounter as you get older, but you can take steps to prevent these conditions and Central Coast Vein & Vascular can help. We offer early screening and create a plan to lower your risk through lifestyle changes and advanced treatments. Read on to learn everything you need to know about vascular disease and its causes.
Vascular disease defined
Vascular disease refers to any problem that affects your arteries and veins. The type of vascular diseases they develop are different, primarily because arteries and veins don’t share the same structure.
Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from your heart to cells throughout your body. Your arteries are equipped with thick, elastic, muscular walls that stand up to the high pressure of blood as it’s pumped out of your heart. Smooth muscles lining the arteries contract and relax to maintain the flow of blood through your arteries.
Veins carry deoxygenated blood back to your heart. Vein walls are thin and nonelastic, so blood flow relies on one-way valves and contraction of large skeletal muscles. When you walk, for example, muscle contractions propel blood up the leg, while valves ensure it keeps moving toward your heart.
Vascular diseases affecting your arteries
Two diseases commonly affect your arteries, atherosclerosis and aneurysms:
Atherosclerosis develops as cholesterol, other fats, and calcium accumulate in the artery wall. Over time, the fatty plaque enlarges and hardens, which prevents blood from flowing freely through the artery.
Depending on where the plaque is located, you can develop vascular diseases with different names, such as:
- Peripheral artery disease
- Coronary artery disease
- Carotid artery disease
- Renal artery stenosis (kidney disease)
Without treatment, atherosclerosis poses two health risks. As it increasingly blocks blood, tissues are deprived of the oxygen and nutrients they need to live and function.
A second problem arises if the plaque ruptures. The rupture causes a blood clot that can travel to other vital organs and cause a heart attack, stroke, or pulmonary embolism.
Though an aneurysm can develop in a vein, the condition most often affects arteries. Aneurysms occur when a weak area in an artery wall fills with blood. The aneurysm may stay small and harmless. Or it can keep getting larger, further weakening the artery and increasing your risk of a dangerous rupture.
Aneurysms most often affect the aorta, the large artery that goes from your heart and down through the center of your chest and abdomen. However, aneurysms can develop in other arteries, including:
- Popliteal aneurysm in the arteries supplying your knee
- Carotid aneurysm in the arteries supplying your brain
- Iliac aneurysm in the arteries supplying your pelvis and legs
- Femoral aneurysm in the arteries supplying your thighs
- Visceral aneurysm in the arteries supplying your liver, kidneys, and intestines
Of the conditions in this list, popliteal aneurysms are the most common.
Vascular diseases affecting your veins
When you develop a problem in your veins, it’s most likely to be chronic venous insufficiency or a blood clot:
Chronic venous insufficiency
Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when a valve weakens or fails, allowing blood to flow backward. The blood stops refluxing when it reaches the next healthy valve, then blood starts to accumulate in that section of the vein.
Chronic venous insufficiency leads to other venous conditions, including:
- Varicose veins
- Spider veins
- Superficial blood clots
- Stasis dermatitis
- Venous stasis ulcers
Varicose veins and the others on this list typically appear in your legs. Venous ulcers, for example, develop in your lower leg, often around the ankle.
You can also develop varicose veins in other parts of your body, however. Pelvic congestion syndrome occurs when the ovarian veins develop varicosities.
Veins develop blood clots, such as deep vein thrombosis, when a problem interferes with normal blood flow or clotting. A few of the top causes include inflammation, vein damage due to surgery or trauma, and a long period of inactivity, such as bed rest or sitting for a long time.
Venous insufficiency slows down blood flow, which raises your risk of blood clots. In addition, the pressure caused by deep vein thrombosis can weaken valves and lead to venous insufficiency.
As vascular specialists, we offer comprehensive care for artery and vein conditions. We provide early screening, advanced diagnostic procedures, and a wide range of interventional treatments in the office.
To schedule an appointment, call Central Coast Vein & Vascular or connect with us online today.