The vascular system is the network of blood vessels that circulate blood to and from the heart and lungs. Vascular diseases are very common, especially as people age. Many people have these diseases and donít know it, because they rarely cause symptoms in the early stages. People with risk factors or any signs or symptoms of vascular disease, should be evaluated by a physician. Untreated vascular disease can lead to serious health problems, such as tissue death and gangrene requiring amputation or other surgery; chronic disability and pain; and weakened blood vessels that may rupture without warning. Deadly complications can result, including stroke (a clogged or narrowed blood vessel cuts the supply of blood to the brain), and pulmonary embolism (a blood clot breaks loose and travels to the heart and lungs). Common diseases affecting the arteries include: Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) (sometimes called peripheral arterial disease, or PAD) is a condition where the arteries that carry blood to the legs (and, less frequently, the arms) become narrow or clogged. Carotid artery disease is a condition in which the arteries in the neck that supply blood to the brain become clogged and may cause a stroke. Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), or Triple A, is an area in the main artery of the heart (the aorta) that is weakened and bulges like a balloon. If it grows large enough, the aneurysm can rupture and cause life-threatening bleeding. Males over the age of 60 who smoke or have ever smoked and people with a history of AAA in their family are at highest risk for this disease.
Causes of Arterial Insufficiency - Occlusion
Factors that increase the chances of vascular disease include: A family history. Increasing age that results in a loss of elasticity in the veins and their valves. Pregnancy. Illness or injury. Prolonged periods of inactivity Ė sitting, standing or bed rest. Hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol or other conditions that affect the health of the cardiovascular system. Smoking. Obesity.
Signs and Symptoms of Arterial Insufficiency - Occlusion
The most common symptom of PVD is painful cramping in the leg or hip, particularly when walking. This symptom, also known as "claudication," occurs when there is not enough blood flowing to the leg muscles during exercise. The pain typically goes away when the muscles are given a rest. Other symptoms may include numbness, tingling or weakness in the leg. In severe cases, you may experience a burning or aching pain in your foot or toes while resting, or develop a sore on your leg or foot that does not heal. People with PVD also may experience a cooling or color change in the skin of the legs or feet, or loss of hair on the legs. In extreme cases, untreated PVD can lead to gangrene, a serious condition that may require amputation of a leg, foot or toes. If you have PVD, you are also at higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Unfortunately, the disease often goes undiagnosed because many people do not experience symptoms in the early stages of PVD or they mistakenly think the symptoms are a normal part of aging. If you notice one or more of these signs, don't wait. Stroke is a medical emergency. Call 9-1-1 or your emergency medical services. Get to a hospital right away! The American Stroke Association wants you to learn the warning signs of stroke: Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination Sudden, severe headache with no known cause Heart Attack Warning Signs: Some heart attacks are sudden and intense -- the "movie heart attack," where no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening: Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain. Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach. Shortness of breath. This feeling often comes along with chest discomfort. But it can occur before the chest discomfort. Other signs: These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness
If you or someone you're with has chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the other signs, don't wait longer than a few minutes (no more than 5) before calling for help. Call 9-1-1... Get to a hospital right away. Calling 9-1-1 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment. Emergency medical services staff can begin treatment when they arrive -- up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car. The staff are also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. You'll get treated faster in the hospital if you come by ambulance, too. If you can't access the emergency medical services (EMS), have someone drive you to the hospital right away. If you're the one having symptoms, don't drive yourself, unless you have absolutely no other option.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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