Veins and arteries are the vessels that carry blood from the heart to your other organs and back again. This network of veins and arteries is called the vascular system. Like other parts of our bodies, it has its own unique diseases. When considering the kinds of diseases and conditions that affect the vascular system, some people immediately think of high cholesterol, spider veins, and varicose veins. Yet, there are many more vascular diseases. Here are just a few.
Erythromelalgia is a rare vascular disorder that affects the feet and, less commonly, the hands. The condition is primarily characterized by intense burning pain in the affected extremities, extreme redness, and increased skin temperature. The condition may be episodic or it may be continuous. It is a rare disorder, affecting approximately 1.3 people per 1,000. Patients may feel this condition is exacerbated by exposure to heat and exercise. Relief is obtained by cooling off the affected extremities. Prescription medication that relieves nerve pain and anti-anxiety drugs may be prescribed to treat this.
Buerger’s disease is another rare vascular condition. The condition is also known as thromboangiitis obliterans. It primarily affects young or middle-aged male cigarette smokers. The disease is characterized by the narrowing of the veins and arteries of the extremities, resulting in reduced blood flow. The legs are more affected by Buerger’s disease than the hands. Those affected by Buerger’s disease may develop sores and ulcers on the feet and hands. In rare cases, tissue death has occurred. The exact cause of the disease is unknown, but those primarily affected are heavy cigarette smokers. Treatment is to first stop smoking and then treatment becomes supportive. Supportive treatment includes vasodilators, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic medication.
Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral artery disease is caused by the condition atherosclerosis, which refers to the build-up of plaque within the arteries, which restricts blood flow. The most common symptoms of PAD involving the lower extremities include cramping, pain, or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles. The pain occurs generally when walking or climbing stairs, and abates when rested. Smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and age are all risk factors for PAD. Many cases of PAD are treated with lifestyle changes and medication.
Coronary Artery Disease
This refers to the build-up of plaques in the arteries that can lead to a heart attack. Another name given to this condition is coronary heart disease. The plaques decrease blood flow to the heart, causing a heart attack. Common risk factors include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, and family history. Obesity may also be a risk factor. Treatment can include a healthy lifestyle, physical activity, and medications to help lower cholesterol when prescribed.
These are just a few of the diseases that can affect the vascular system. While some are rare disorders, others are quite common. Diagnosis is an important part of treatment and most diagnoses can painlessly take place in a doctor’s office. If you believe that you are affected by one of these conditions, it is important that you see your doctor. Your physician may refer you to a vascular specialist.