What is the vascular system?
The vascular system, also called the circulatory system, is made up of the vessels that carry blood and lymph through the body. The arteries and veins carry blood throughout the body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the body tissues and taking away tissue waste matter.
A vascular disease is a condition that affects the arteries and/or veins. Most often, vascular disease affects blood flow, either by blocking or weakening blood vessels, or by damaging the valves that are found in veins. Organs and other body structures may be damaged by vascular disease as a result of decreased or completely blocked blood flow.
Vascular disease can lead to stroke, loss of a limb and death due to rupture of an aneurysm. Unfortunately, vascular disease often goes undiagnosed due to a lack of awareness.
What causes vascular disease?
- Atherosclerosis (build-up of plaque in the inner lining of an artery)
- A blocked blood vessel or blood clot
- An inflammation of blood vessels (Vasculitis)
- Trauma or injury involving the blood vessels may lead to inflammation or infection, which can cause blockage or narrowing of blood vessels
- Vascular diagnostic ultrasounds
- Vascular screenings
- VNUS ablations
- Vein stripping
Often vascular disease can be identified from a history and physical exam by someone expert in the field. Additional diagnostic tests and procedures are used to determine if a person has significant vascular disease, the severity, and the most effective treatment methods.
Initial diagnostic tests are non-invasive through the use of ultrasound to look at vascular structures through the skin. These tests have become very precise and sophisticated, providing the information that is needed for treatment tailored to an individual’s particular condition.
If the non-invasive tests indicate the need for more information, then additional diagnostic tools are used such as:
- CT scans
- Arteriograms (placement of a small catheter into an artery and injecting fluid to give an exact picture of the arteries and of any blockages)
- Carotid artery procedures for stroke prevention
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm repair
- Abdominal artery bypass procedures
- Lower extremity bypass procedures
- Hemodialysis access
- Surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome
- Venous procedures for varicose veins and venous insufficiency
- Endovascular abdominal aortic aneurysm repair
- Lower extremity angioplasty
- Lower extremity stents
- Carotid artery stents