The human body’s vascular system is a complex mesh of arteries, veins, and capillaries that circulate blood through the whole body. Arteries circulate oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the organs. Veins carry oxygen-deficient blood from the organs to the heart. Capillaries connect arteries to veins. Vascular disease affects the functioning of the circulatory system of the human body. The arteries that are prone to the most unstable blood flow are arch branches (provide blood flow to the brain), Coronary arteries (provide blood flow to the heart), Renal arteries (provide blood flow to the kidneys), iliac arteries (provide blood flow to the hips and legs) and femoral arteries (provides blood flow to the hips and legs). Therefore, these areas are most prone to vascular disease.
Types of vascular disease and treatment
There are various types of vascular diseases-
- Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)- Excess fat and cholesterol build-up called plaque deposit in the arteries. This condition is called atherosclerosis. This leads to ischemia which is insufficient blood flow in a part of the body. PAD causes insufficient blood flow in limbs causing various problems such as Raynaud’s disease and Buerger’s disease. Raynaud’s syndrome causes numbing and spasms in fingers and toes. Buerger’s disease may cause gangrene and even loss of limbs. PAD also causes Intestinal Ischemic syndrome which is the blockage of blood flow in the gastrointestinal system leading to severe pain, nausea, diarrhoea and weight loss. PAD leads to renal artery disease causing kidney failure, uncontrolled hypertension and congestive heart failure. The treatment of PAD requires major lifestyle changes such as a controlled diet, exercise and healthy living. And various medicines are prescribed such as blood thinners and vasodilators. In severe cases surgery such as angioplasty and stenting have to be done.
- Carotid Artery issue- Carotid artery issue is the blockage of blood flow in the brain. It may lead to carotid artery disease which has no symptoms until a stroke or an ischemic attack. It leads to carotid dissection which causes severe headaches, neck pain and nausea. The Carotid Artery issue may lead to severe issues like carotid tumours and aneurysms which leads to hypertension, palpitations and stroke. The treatment includes medicines and surgery for the removal of tumours. The aneurysm is surgically treated through either clipping or endovascular coiling.
- Venous diseases- Veins have flaps, called valves, inside them that ensure the one-way movement of blood. Various issues arise when the flaps don’t work properly. Varicose Veins are twisted and enlarged clusters of veins that appear on the skin. These veins also appear to be blue or purple in colour. They are often surrounded by spider veins which are small, dilated blood vessels in the skin. Varicose veins are harmful to normal well-being as they may lead to more severe conditions such as venous stasis ulcers. Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome (KTS), May-Thurner syndrome (MTS), Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS), and Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) are other venous diseases that cause pain, discomfort, and obstructed movements of limbs. Various lifestyle changes can be made to avoid venous diseases such as weight management and regular exercise. Venous diseases can be treated through a surgical procedure called vein ablation.
- Blood Clot issues- Clots are jelly-like solid masses formed by blood coagulation. Blood clots seal the wear and tear to prevent excessive blood loss. In some cases, when blood clots are formed in blood vessels, it becomes loose and travels through the bloodstream causing deep vein thrombosis. When the blood clot happens in a vein just under the skin, it is called superficial thrombophlebitis. When this clot travels and lodges in the lungs, it is called pulmonary embolism which causes difficulty in breathing, chest pain, and blood in the cough. Blood clot disorders cause inflammation in limbs and heaviness, warmth and pain around the affected vein. The treatment of blood clot disorders requires major lifestyle changes such as a controlled diet, exercise and healthy living. Various medicines are prescribed such as blood thinners and thrombolytics. Surgery is required in severe cases of deep vein thrombosis which is called thrombectomy. If the pulmonary vein thrombosis is life-threatening the patient has to undergo the surgery of embolectomy where a catheter is inserted in the location of the clot and a solution is sent through the catheter to dissolve the clot.
The risk factor for vascular diseases includes diabetes, hypertension, lifestyle choices, such as smoking and alcohol use, high blood pressure, obesity and lack of exercise. There are some congenital vascular diseases called congenital vascular malformations.
The risk of vascular diseases can be reduced or prevented by managing diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, exercising regularly, eating healthy food or checking your weight, reducing stress levels and avoiding all tobacco products and alcohol.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from any sort of vascular diseases, you must immediately get yourself checked by a cardiology doctor as prolonging treatment can only worsen the issue. In India, one can look for the best cardiac hospital in Bangalore, Mumbai, or Pune as these cities offer cost-effective treatment.