Vascular care

Overview of vascular care

Vascular care treats disorders and diseases that affect the vascular system, which includes the arteries, veins, and other vessels that circulate blood throughout your body. Another name for the vascular system is the circulatory system. 

Some vascular conditions are severe and life-threatening, such as blood clots, while others pose no real medical threat, such as spider veins.

Some vascular conditions are acute, meaning they come on quickly and may clear up just as fast with treatment. In contrast, others are chronic, developing over the years, and requiring ongoing medical management.

Treatment and prevention are possible for many vascular conditions. At Dignity Health, we provide expert care with humankindness for a wide variety of vascular disorders and diseases. 

If you believe you are at risk for a vascular condition, it’s vital to Find a Doctor. The earlier you receive care, the better the outcome will be. 

Symptoms

Because of the vast array of possible diseases known to affect blood vessels, signs and symptoms of vascular conditions range from mild pain and fatigue to trouble breathing. In fact, many people with vascular conditions like peripheral artery disease (PAD) never experience symptoms at all.

The symptoms of a vascular condition also depend on the specific arteries or veins involved. Some conditions affect your entire vascular system. These are “systemic” vascular conditions. Vasculitis, which is inflammation of the blood vessels, is one example. Common symptoms include:

  • Leg pain or cramping during exercise or at rest
  • Slow healing, infections, ulcers, or sores on the feet or legs
  • Atrophied calf muscle
  • Lack of pulse or difficulty finding a pulse in the legs or feet
  • Spider or varicose veins
  • Feeling of coldness or bluish extremities (feet, hands, fingers, toes, and lips/nose)
  • Thickening or brittle toenails and hair loss on the tops of the feet
  • Weakened legs or calf muscles
  • Erectile dysfunction in men

Causes

Vascular conditions can be caused by genetic abnormalities and structural problems with the blood vessels. People with a family history of certain vascular diseases may be at higher risk for developing a vascular condition.

Other conditions, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease, can all lead to or exacerbate vascular disease. The most common cause of vascular disease is called atherosclerosis, which refers to restriction of the blood vessels or blockages caused by a buildup of fatty deposits called plaque.

Types

Common vascular conditions include:

  • Aortic aneurysm
  • Blood clots and other occlusions
  • Carotid artery disease
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Chronic venous insufficiencies, such as varicose veins and spider veins
  • Deep venous thrombosis
  • Lymphedema
  • Pelvic venous congestion syndrome
  • Peripheral artery disease (sometimes called peripheral vascular disease)
  • Renal (kidney) artery stenosis
  • Temporal (giant cell) arteritis
  • Vascular dementia
  • Vasculitis

Risk factors

Risk factors for vascular disease include all activities and factors that reduce circulation or impact blood flow. For example:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Age
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Higher than average levels of C-reactive protein in the blood
  • Lack of activity: a sedentary or bed-bound lifestyle

Prevention

Some vascular conditions may be preventable by making heart-healthy lifestyle choices that include quitting smoking and engaging in regular exercise. These practices can also slow disease progression.

You can lower your risk for vascular conditions by attending regular checkups and following your doctor’s recommendations for diet, exercise, and preventive screening. This is especially true if you have a family history of vascular disease, meaning someone in your immediate family has been diagnosed with it.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.