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Vascular Disease


Think of your arteries and veins as a vast roadway-the vessels through which life-giving blood flows. At the center are your heart and lungs, where blood is enriched with oxygen and nutrients. This rich blood flows away from the heart in your arteries, ultimately reaching and feeding your arms, legs and all of your organs. Then, the depleted blood returns via the veins to the heart and lungs for replenishment, at which time the circulatory process begins anew.

Strong, flexible blood vessels are essential to maintaining optimal blood flow. Vascular disease produces changes or restrictions in the way the blood flows. Cardiovascular disease affects blood vessels in the heart. Peripheral vascular disease affects all of the remaining blood vessels in the body. The many manifestations of vascular disease may include difficulty walking, high blood pressure, kidney failure, gangrene, stroke and even death.


Types
  • Arterial Vascular Disease
    Blood flows easily through smooth, elastic arteries. But aging arteries thicken and lose elasticity, restricting blood flow to vital areas of the body. Fat and cholesterol may build up inside these arteries, narrowing passageways further with plaque. This process is called arteriosclerosis or "hardening of the arteries." Eventually, blood flow can become so limited that organs and other tissues supplied by the artery are compromised by an insufficient supply of oxygen and other nutrients. Or a blood clot, or thrombus, can break off from this plaque and lodge in a smaller downstream vessel, blocking all flow of blood beyond this point. Or an artery can weaken and balloon into a bulge called an aneurysm, which, if left unchecked, may rupture and cause massive internal bleeding.

  • Venous Vascular Disease
    Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is an acute process that involves blood clots in a vein. Again, such clots can break off but, in venous disease, they flow "upstream," where they can lodge in the lungs. This is a potentially life-threatening condition that can be treated if diagnosed in time. Chronic venous disease occurs when pressure builds up in the veins causing swollen legs, varicose veins and leg ulcers.

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