Vascular Diseases

CMMC Vascular and Endovascular Surgeons Treat A Wide Range of Vascular Conditions and Diseases

The vascular system includes the arteries and veins that transport blood to and from the heart. When blood leaves the heart through the aorta, (the body’s main artery), it carries oxygen and nutrients through other arteries to all parts of the body. As part of its journey, the blood deposits waste products in the kidneys and liver as it travels through veins to return to the heart.

Vascular conditions and diseases can arise for many reasons. Unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, overeating and lack of exercise, as well as genetics, may result in the buildup of plaque and cholesterol, which can cause blockages. (Blockages near the heart are treated by cardiovascular surgeons.) Vascular and endovascular surgeons treat blockages that occur in other parts of the body. Untreated blockages can cause strokes, loss of a limb, even death.

The most common vascular conditions are abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), carotid artery disease, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), and varicose veins.

An overview of these diseases:

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

An aneurysm is a bulge, or ballooning in the wall of an artery. Aneurysms can occur in the chest, abdomen and extremities. The danger is that it can enlarge and rupture over time. This is especially typical of an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA); if this occurs in the abdomen, the loss of blood can cause death in minutes. In other parts of the body, the aneurysm may cause a clot, which causes poor circulation to the limb and can result in amputation. Vascular surgeons can diagnose and treat aneurysms as needed. What causes an aneurysm? Atherosclerosis (also known as hardening of the arteries), high blood pressure, genetics and lifestyle choices are usually the causes. Smoking is big risk factor, especially for men.

Carotid Artery Disease

Carotid artery disease is caused by atherosclerosis, which is also known as “hardening of the arteries.” It is the build-up of plaque within an artery, which causes the artery to narrow. The carotid arteries are in the neck, and they are the main route for blood supply to the brain. If a small piece of plaque breaks off in the carotid artery, it may travel to the brain and cause a stroke. Sometimes a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini-stroke may occur.

A TIA is a warning that a more severe stroke is likely in the near future. This condition may be asymptomatic, but if your healthcare provider believes you are at risk, the condition can be identified on an ultrasound. Talk to your healthcare provider about atherosclerosis to see if you are at risk. The disease can be treated. Procedures include carotid endarterectomy and carotid stenting.

Peripheral Arterial Disease

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is caused by a build-up of plaque in the leg arteries. As a result, blood flow is restricted. In mild-to-moderate cases, patients may suffer muscle pain while walking, which is called “claudication”. In severe cases, PAD can cause severe foot pain, or gangrene. Without prompt treatment, amputation
may be necessary. Fortunately, PAD can usually be treated without surgical intervention. Diet modification, exercise, and medication are often all that is required. In severe cases, a balloon angioplasty with a stent or a bypass operation may be considered.

Varicose Veins

While arteries transport blood from the heart to the rest of the body, veins deliver blood back to the heart. In healthy veins, valves help prevent blood from flowing backwards. In patients with venous insufficiency, the valves are damaged and no longer work properly. Venous insufficiency causes leg veins to enlarge, twist and appear blue or purple -- a condition called varicose veins. Varicose veins are not necessarily a serious health risk, but they can be painful and cause leg ulcers that are resistant to healing. In some cases, however, they can cause more serious issues including leg pain and swelling, and serious blood clots known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT.) CMMC has a Vein Center dedicated to treating patients with vein disorders.

CMHVI provides numerous tests for vascular diseases. Discuss your health with your primary care provider to determine whether you should be screened or examined for vascular diseases. Please note that not all vascular diseases have noticeable symptoms in their early stages. It is important to look at your lifestyle and notice changes you may be experiencing, however slight.

The good news is that if your lifestyle is causing health issues, then making changes –- such as eliminating smoking, losing weight and exercising -- can greatly improve your health. You may also improve your health by taking plaque and cholesterol-fighting medications such as statins. These are options you can discuss with your doctors.