Vascular disease, also known as vasculopathy, impacts the blood vessels responsible for transporting oxygen and vital nutrients throughout the body while eliminating waste from tissues. Common vascular conditions arise due to the accumulation of plaque (composed of fat and cholesterol), leading to a reduction or complete blockage of blood flow within the arteries or veins. Implementing lifestyle modifications can often alleviate these issues, although certain individuals may require medical interventions or surgical procedures.

Who is at risk of developing vascular diseases? 

Vascular disease can affect individuals across all demographics. “Risk factors” refer to the elements that increase the likelihood of developing vascular disease, such as dietary choices, genetic predisposition, and advancing age. Being aware of your risk factors can assist in preventing or effectively managing vascular disease. Certain risk factors, such as family history, are beyond your control. However, there are other factors that you can actively address to reduce your risk and enhance your vascular health.

Although not all vascular diseases share the same risk factors, here are some of the more prevalent ones:

  • Diabetes
  • Hyperlipidemia (elevated levels of fats like cholesterol in the bloodstream)
  • Smoking
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle

How is a vascular disease diagnosed?

To diagnose vascular disease, your healthcare provider will conduct a thorough physical examination and gather your medical history, including any relevant family medical history. When you visit your healthcare provider for an examination, it is helpful to remove your shoes and socks so that they can assess for signs of vascular disease. Depending on the suspected type of vascular disease, your provider may perform blood tests and utilize various imaging techniques for diagnosis.

Many vascular diseases involve the presence of blood clots or blockages within blood vessels. To diagnose these conditions, your healthcare provider will employ imaging methods that enable visualization inside your blood vessels. These diagnostic techniques include:

  • Vascular ultrasound
  • Catheter angiography
  • CT angiography
  • MR angiography

How are vascular diseases treated?

The choice of treatment for vascular diseases depends on the specific type and severity of the condition. There are several treatment options available for vascular diseases, including:

  1. Lifestyle changes: Making healthy lifestyle modifications, such as adopting a heart-healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise.
  2. Medications: Prescribing medications to manage vascular diseases, such as blood pressure medications, blood thinners, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and clot-dissolving medications. In certain cases, healthcare providers may administer the medication directly to the affected blood vessel using a catheter.
  3. Non-surgical procedures: Performing non-surgical procedures like angioplasty (using a balloon-like device to open narrowed blood vessels), stenting (placing a small metal mesh tube to keep the blood vessel open), and vein ablation (using heat or laser to close off problematic veins).

Surgery: Surgical interventions may be necessary for certain cases of vascular diseases. Surgeons may perform procedures such as bypass surgery (creating a new route for blood flow by using a graft), endarterectomy (removing plaque buildup from the blood vessel walls), or aneurysm repair (correcting abnormal widening of blood vessels).