Vascular Disease

Vascular disease describes a wide range of disorders that affect the veins and arteries. Vascular disorders range from the merely bothersome to the fatal. The more serious vascular disorders can cause strokes, heart failure and fatal aneurysms.

An Overview of Vascular Diseases

Vascular diseases can affect veins and arteries almost anywhere in the body. Here are just a few of the more common vascular disorders:

Aneurysms: areas of arteries that bulge outwards. A ruptured aneurysm can cause shock and sudden death. Brain aneurysms are a well-known variety of vascular disease.

High Blood Pressure: one of the most widespread of vascular disorders. As many as one third of the US population suffers from high blood pressure.

Raynaud’s Syndrome: a blood circulation disorder that affects small arteries (“arterioles”) of the hands and feet. One common trigger of Raynaud’s syndrome is cold weather, which causes small arteries to collapse.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): a vascular disease that causes blood clots to develop in the large veins of the leg. Deep vein thrombosis is also called traveler’s thrombosis.

Lymphedema: a condition marked by progressive swelling of the limbs, and caused by a defect in the lymphatic system.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: a general term describing a set of pain related symptoms caused by compressed arteries and veins, typically in the upper part of the body.

Varicose Veins: enlarged veins that bulge outwards. Varicose veins commonly appear on the legs and usually cause only discomfort and embarrassment.

Vasculitis: a term used to describe blood vessel inflammation. Vasculitis can affect both arteries and veins, and includes many different vascular disorders.

Complications of Vascular Disorders

Vascular disorders are most often associated with the heart and lungs, but diseases that affect the veins and arteries can damage any area of the body. Nerve damage, organ failure and even gangrene can result from serious vascular disease.

Causes of Vascular Disease

Vascular disorders are sometimes caused by autoimmune or connective tissue diseases. A relatively harmless vascular disease such as Raynaud’s syndrome may indicate a more serious condition such as systemic lupus erthyromatosis.

Infections, birth defects, trauma and simple aging can trigger vascular disease. In many cases, however, no specific cause can be found for disorders of the veins and arteries.