The vascular system is made up of veins and arteries throughout the body. “Vascular” relates to the word “hollow” in Latin, aptly-named as it describes the blood vessels that help distribute blood and its nutrients.
The vascular system is complex and contains many parts, and when even one of them has a problem, it can cause larger problems for the entire system. Any issue in the vascular system is called vascular disease. Many of the conditions that fall under vascular disease are life-altering and even life-threatening. Here’s a look at some of these diseases – their risk factors and causes, and some of the most common types.
Risk Factors of Vascular Disease
There are many different kinds of vascular diseases, but most types have many of the same risk factors. There are few direct causes of vascular diseases, but rather various factors that may increase risk for many people. Some of these risk factors include:
- Age – older people are at a higher level of risk
- Genetics – family history is one of the biggest factors
- High cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes or other conditions of the heart or blood vessels
- illness or injury
Many of these elements are lifestyle-related, meaning you have the ability to play a role in your body’s vascular health. Taking healthy precautions earlier in life can often reduce risk, pain, time and money.
Types of Vascular Disease
There are several different kinds of vascular disease. Some cases are mild or moderate with limited symptoms, and others can be severe and life-threatening.
- Atherosclerosis: Atherosclerosis is a condition where plaque buildup over time lead to arteries hardening in the body. This can cause blockages in the arteries of the heart resulting in everything from a minor clot to a heart attack. Vessel blockages can also affect any vessel in the body damaging internal organs or limbs- this is called peripheral arterial disease.
- Raynaud’s phenomenon: Also known as Raynaud’s disease or Raynaud’s syndrome, this is a rare disease where blood flow to areas like the fingers or toes is cut off due to spasm of arteries. The skin will turn blue and feel cold or numb. Raynaud’s might be related to diseases like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Buerger’s disease: Another rare disease where arteries and veins in the arms and legs will swell, and can be painful. Buerger’s disease and Raynaud’s disease are often linked. Tobacco use is a known cause of Buerger’s disease.
- Aneurysm: An aneurysm is a bulge or weakness in the wall of a blood vessel. Aneurysms are common among vascular diseases, and while their symptoms are usually mild, they can signal a risk of much larger problems like clots or ruptures.
- Peripheral venous disease: This involves damaged valves within the veins causing the veins to dilate and for blood to pool within the veins. Issues like leg pain, swelling, heaviness and skin changes or varicose veins are a result of peripheral venous disease.
- Blood clots: Can cause damage ranging from minor problems to strokes or heart attacks. There are also several chronic blood-clotting disorders that can develop.
What Is Vascular Disease. WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/vascular-disease#1
Vascular Diseases. Medline Plus. https://medlineplus.gov/vasculardiseases.html