Heart & Vascular

Conditions

Conditions

Doylestown Health heart and vascular specialists treat a wide range of cardiovascular conditions, from heart attacks and strokes to heart disease and vascular disease.

  • Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)

    An enlargement of the lower part of the aorta—the major blood vessel that supplies blood to the body —which runs from the heart through the center of the chest and abdomen. Because the aorta is the body's main supplier of blood, a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm can cause life-threatening bleeding.

    Symptoms include a pulsating feeling near the navel; deep, constant pain in the abdomen or side; and back pain. Being male and smoking significantly increase the risk of AAA.

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  • Aneurysms

    An abnormal weakening and bulging in the wall of a blood vessel anywhere in the body. If an aneurysm bursts (ruptures) it can cause internal bleeding, which can lead to death. Aneurysms that occur in the body or brain generally don't present signs or symptoms until they rupture.

    Males, people over 60 years old, and those who smoke, are obese or have a family history of heart conditions are at higher risk.

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  • Angina (Chest Pain)

    The sensation of pressure, pain or squeezing in the chest caused when the heart muscle is not getting enough oxygen-rich blood. Angina is not a disease, but can be a symptom of coronary artery disease.

    Risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, inactivity, an unhealthy diet and a family history of early heart disease.

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  • Aortic Dissection

    A relatively uncommon medical emergency in which a tear forms in the inner layer of the large blood vessel branching off the heart (called the aorta).  When blood comes through the tear it can cause the inner and middle layers of the aorta to separate (dissect). If the rupture comes through to the outside aortic wall, it is often fatal.

    Symptoms may be similar to those of a heart attack, including sudden severe chest or upper back pain, shortness of breath and fainting.

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  • Aortic Stenosis

    A narrowing of the valve in the large blood vessel branching off the heart (aorta) keeps the valve from opening fully and reduces the blood flow to the body, which makes the heart work harder. Over time this extra work can weaken the heart muscle which can lead to heart failure.

    Aortic stenosis ranges from mild to severe and symptoms include heart murmur, feeling dizzy or faint, heart palpitations and chest pain during activity.

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  • Arrhythmia (Irregular Heartbeat)

    An irregular heartbeat rhythm (too fast, too slow or erratic) caused by a change in the natural sequence of electrical impulses that control your heartbeat. This irregularity reduces the effectiveness of the heart to pump blood to the body, putting the lungs, brain and all other organs at risk of damage. Harmless arrhythmias are extremely common, but some arrhythmias can be extremely dangerous and require medical attention.

    Symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath and the sensation of fluttering in the chest.

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  • Atherosclerosis (Narrowing of the Arteries)

    The buildup of fatty deposits (plaque) in the arteries (blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart and other parts of the body). Over time the plaque hardens and narrows arteries; limiting and sometime blocking the blood flow and the supply of oxygen to cells and increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. When atherosclerosis occurs in arteries that carry blood to the heart, it is called coronary artery disease.

    Risk factors for developing atherosclerosis include lack of physical activity, smoking, an unhealthy diet, advanced age and a family history of heart disease.

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  • Atrial Fibrillation (Irregular Heartbeat)

    Known as AFib, this occurs when the upper chambers (the atria) of the heart beat chaotically and out of coordination with the lower chambers (the ventricles). The irregular, often rapid, heartbeat (arrhythmia) can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. Symptoms can include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness, dizziness and confusion.

    Afib is the result of damage to the heart's structure possibly caused by conditions such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, metabolic imbalance, sleep apnea, viral infection and exposure to stimulants such as medications, caffeine, tobacco or alcohol.

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  • Cardiac Arrest

    An unexpected, abrupt loss of heart function, due to an electrical malfunction in the heart, that causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). Not to be confused with a heart attack, cardiac arrest disrupts the heart's ability to pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs. Within seconds, a person can lose consciousness and a pulse, which can cause death.

    Cardiac arrest is reversible in most victims if it's treated within a few minutes using cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and a defibrillator to shock the heart and restore a normal heart rhythm.

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  • Cardiomyopathy in Adults (Enlarged Heart)

    Diseases of the heart muscle that cause the heart to become enlarged, thick or rigid and less able to pump blood through the body and maintain a normal electrical rhythm. The result can be heart failure or arrhythmia.

    Symptoms usually don't appear until the late stages of cardiomyopathy and can include breathlessness, swelling of the legs, ankles and feet, cough while lying down and chest pressure. Treatment depends on the type and severity of cardiomyopathy and might include medications, surgically implanted devices or, in severe cases, a heart transplant.

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  • Carotid Artery Disease

    A serious disease in which fatty deposits (plaque) build up in the carotid arteries (one located on each side of the neck) causing them to become stiff and narrow—eventually blocking the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the brain and head and increasing the risk of stroke.

    Risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, inactivity and advanced age.

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  • Carotid Blockages

    Blockage of the carotid artery (vessels located on each side of the neck that carry oxygen-rich blood to the head, brain and face) can cause an interruption of the blood flow to the brain, which can cause a stroke.

    Symptoms of a narrowing or blockage in one or both of the carotid arteries include sudden or severe headache, dizziness or loss of balance, trouble with speech or sight and sudden numbness of the face or limbs.

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  • Cerebrovascular Disease (CVA)

    A group of disorders that can affect the two major arteries that provide the blood supply to the brain and interrupt blood flow— causing conditions such as stroke, carotid stenosis, vertebral stenosis and intracranial stenosis, aneurysms, and vascular malformations.

    Cerebrovascular diseases can often be identified through diagnostic imaging tests such as cerebral angiography, carotid ultrasound, Computed Tomography (CT or CAT scan), Electroencephalogram (EEG), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Magnetic Resonance Angiogram (MRA).

    Treatment options can include medications, surgery and lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, exercise and controlling blood pressure.

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  • Chest Pain

    Pain occurring anywhere between the neck and upper abdomen that ranges from a dull ache to a sharp stabbing feeling or a crushing or burning sensation. Often assumed to be related to the heart, chest pain can also indicate a problem in the lungs, esophagus, muscles, ribs or nerves. A visit to a doctor is necessary to confirm the cause of the pain.

    Chest pain specific to the heart can be caused by coronary artery disease, a heart attack, heart muscle inflammation (myocarditis), an inflammation or infection of the sac around the heart (pericarditis), a condition in which a valve in the heart fails to close properly (mitral valve prolapse), a genetic disease or other reasons.

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  • Cholesterol

    A waxy, fat-like substance found in the blood that plays an important role in helping cells function properly. It is produced naturally by the body as well as introduced through a diet of foods from animals and some tropical oils. Although cholesterol itself isn't bad, too much of a certain type of cholesterol (low density lipoproteins (LDL) or "bad cholesterol ") may lead to a buildup of plaque inside the arteries, narrowing the space for blood flow and causing heart disease.

    Checking for high cholesterol involves a simple blood test. High cholesterol can be treated with medications and a healthy diet that includes high-density lipoproteins (HDL), known as "good cholesterol. "

    Treatment includes lifestyle changes such as a heart-healthy diet, exercise and quitting smoking, as well as medication.

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  • Congenital Heart Disease

    Structural abnormalities present at birth that are usually the result of the heart or blood vessels near the heart not developing normally before birth.

    Virtually all children with simple heart defects survive into adulthood and can lead normal or nearly normal lives. In more complex situations, treatment requires highly specialized care, especially for a child that may experience developmental delay or learning difficulties as a result.

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  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

    A potentially serious disorder that occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in one or more of the deep veins in the body, usually in the legs. These clots can break loose and travel through the bloodstream and get caught in the lungs, blocking blood flow (pulmonary embolism); a condition which can be life- threatening. DVT can form in people who have a medical condition that affects blood clotting, or in people who have had a long period of immobility.

    Symptoms may include leg or arm swelling, pain when walking or standing, warmth in the area that hurts, enlarged veins or skin that looks red or blue.

    Treatment is focused on preventing the clot from getting bigger and breaking loose and includes blood thinners, clot busting medication, filters and compression stockings.

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  • Diabetes-Related Circulatory Problems and Wounds

    Over time high blood glucose levels can damage blood vessels, rendering them unable to adequately deliver a sufficient amount of oxygen-rich blood to cells. As circulation slows, red blood cells move more slowly. This makes it more difficult for the body to deliver nutrients to wounds. As a result, injuries heal more slowly, or may not heal at all.

    Uncontrolled blood glucose can also damage the body's nerves so much so that someone with diabetes may sustain an injury to their feet without being aware (diabetic neuropathy), preventing them from seeking treatment and allowing a wound to become worse.

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  • Endocarditis

    An infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves (endocardium) caused by bacteria, fungi or other germs that spread from another part of the body, through the bloodstream, and attach to damaged areas in the heart. Without quick treatment, endocarditis can further damage or destroy heart valves and can lead to life-threatening complications.

    Symptoms vary based on the extent of the infection and may include flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills and achy joints and muscles, heart murmur, chest pain and shortness of breath.

    Treatment for endocarditis includes antibiotics and surgery.

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  • Heart Attack

    The slow process toward a heart attack happens when oxygen-rich blood flow to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely by a narrowing of the coronary arteries with fat, cholesterol and other substances (plaque) in a process known as atherosclerosis. When plaque in a heart artery breaks, a blood clot forms around the plaque which can block the blood flow through the heart muscle. The heart muscle is starved for oxygen and nutrients in a process called ischemia. Damage or death of part of the heart muscle occurs as a result of ischemia, it is called a heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction (MI).

    Symptoms of this medical emergency vary in severity and include pressure or tightness in the chest, nausea, indigestion or heartburn, shortness of breath, cold sweat, fatigue and sudden lightheadedness.

    Always call 911 to seek emergency care if you are having symptoms of a heart attack. Do not drive yourself to the hospital.

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  • Heart Failure

    When the heart muscle is weakened and cannot pump enough blood to meet the body's needs for blood and oxygen due to conditions such as narrowed arteries (coronary artery disease), high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

    Symptoms can be ongoing or appear suddenly and may include shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling in the legs, feet or abdomen, irregular heartbeat, persistent cough or wheezing and rapid weight gain from fluid retention.

    Damage caused to the heart by heart failure (also known as congestive heart failure) cannot be reversed, however lifestyle changes such as exercise, reducing sodium in the diet, managing stress and losing weight can improve symptoms and quality of life.

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  • Heart Valve Problems and Disease

    There are three basic kinds of heart valves problems: regurgitation (blood leaks back into the chambers rather than flowing forward through the heart or into an artery), stenosis (flaps of a valve thicken, stiffen, or fuse together, preventing the heart valve from fully opening) and atresia (heart valve lacks an opening for blood to pass through).

    Some people with these conditions may never experience symptoms and live a normal life. Others may experience chest pain, fatigue, dizziness and shortness of breath. If not treated, advanced heart valve disease can cause heart failure, stroke, blood clots, or cardiac arrest.

    Treatment includes medication, lifestyle changes and repair or replacement of heart valves.

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  • High Blood Pressure

    Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is a largely symptomless disease that makes the heart and blood vessels work harder and less efficiently. Over time, the force and friction of high blood pressure damages the delicate tissues inside the arteries, forming tiny tears where plaque forms that further narrows and damages the arteries.

    If left uncontrolled, high blood pressure can cause many health problems, including include heart failure, vision loss, stroke, and kidney disease.

    Risk factors include advanced age, family history, ethnic background, obesity, physical inactivity, smoking, stress, diabetes, and high fat and salt intake. Treatment includes medication as well as lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, weight loss, and stress management.

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  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

    A condition in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick (hypertrophied), making it hard for the heart to pump blood.  There are few if any symptoms and many people can lead normal lives with no significant problems from this condition. Other people can experience shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, chest pain or problems in the heart's electrical system, resulting in abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) and sudden cardiac death.

    Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is usually inherited and cannot be prevented. Treatment may include surgery, an implantable device, or medications to slow or regulate the heart rate.

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  • Limb Ischemia

    A severe blockage in the arteries of the lower extremities which can cause tissue damage and loss of limbs. It may cause severe pain, loss of pulses, coldness of the limb and paleness of the skin, thickening of the toenails, open sores, skin infections or ulcers that will not heal; dry, black skin of the legs or feet, leg weakness and loss of sensation.

    Risk factors include advanced age, smoking, diabetes, obesity, inactive lifestyle, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and family history.

    This condition requires immediate medical attention to re-establish blood-flow to preserve the limb. Treatment may include angioplasty, stents or surgery.

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  • Lymphedema

    Swelling, in one or both of the arms or legs, caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system. This prevents lymph fluid from draining, leading to a buildup of fluid. This condition is most commonly caused by the removal of or damage to the lymph nodes as a part of cancer treatment.

    Symptoms include a sensation of fullness in the arms or legs, restricted range of motion in the wrists, hands, and ankles and a hardening and thickening of the skin.

    Treatments include rest after surgery, elevation, avoiding extreme cold or heat, diligence to protecting the skin including wearing gloves while doing routine chores, and inspecting skin daily for breaks that can lead to infection.

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  • Mesenteric Artery Disease

    A narrowing in the arteries that carry blood to the large and small intestines. If the blood flow becomes severely blocked, the intestines can die. The condition can occur with cardiovascular disease.

    The acute form of the disease is typically caused by a clot, and can be immediately life-threatening. Chronic mesenteric artery disease is related to atherosclerosis (fatty deposits that can clog arteries) and is more gradual.

    Diagnosis is done by blood tests, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Computed tomography (CT) and angiography. Treatment includes angioplasty and stenting procedures and blood clot removal.

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  • Metabolic Syndrome

    A group of metabolic conditions, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high fasting glucose levels and obesity, that when occurring together increase a person's risk for heart disease. In order for a patient to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, they must have more than one of these conditions occurring together.

    Although metabolic syndrome is a serious health condition, you can take steps to reduce your risk of cardiovascular issues by eating a healthier diet, getting exercise and working with your physician to monitor your blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol.

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  • Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP)

    Also known as click-murmur syndrome or floppy valve syndrome, it is the improper closure of the valve between the heart's upper and lower left chambers. In most cases, MVP is harmless and those who have the condition are unaware of it. However, in some cases treatment is required.

    When symptoms do occur, it may be because blood is leaking backward through the valve (regurgitation) and results in irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, fatigue or chest pain.

    MVP cannot be prevented and rarely becomes a highly serious condition. If regurgitation does become serious, medications or surgery may be recommended.

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  • Myocarditis

    An inflammation of the heart muscle (myocardium) usually caused a viral infection, environmental toxins or a more general inflammatory condition, often attacking otherwise healthy people. Myocarditis affects the heart's electrical system and reduces the heart's ability to pump, causing rapid or abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias).

    Myocarditis typically has no symptoms and goes undiagnosed. Symptoms may include shortness of breath during exertion, fatigue, heart palpitations, chest pain or pressure and leg swelling. Severe myocarditis can weaken the heart and limit the blood supply to the rest of the body. Clots can form in the heart, leading to a stroke or heart attack.

    Treatment includes rest, a low-salt diet and steroids and other medications to reduce inflammation.

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  • Pericarditis

    A swelling and irritation of the thin saclike membrane surrounding the heart (pericardium) caused by a viral infection or heart attack. In many cases, the cause is unknown.

    Pericarditis can be acute or chronic with symptoms of sharp, stabbing chest pain behind the breastbone or in the left side of the chest, shortness of breath when reclining, coughing, abdominal or leg swelling, heart palpitations and low-grade fever.

    Treatment for acute pericarditis may include medication for pain and inflammation, antibiotic or antifungal medication. Treatment for more severe cases may include medications or surgery. Once recovered, a person can return to normal activity without concern.

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  • Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

    The slow, gradual narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis) of the circulatory system that carries oxygen and nutrient-rich blood from the heart to the arms and legs, causing damage to the tissues. The rate at which PAD progresses varies with each individual.

    Risk factors include age, ethnic background, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and a history of heart disease. Symptoms include leg discomfort, pain or cramping that develops with walking, is relieved with rest, and recurs upon resuming activity; leg numbness or weakness; a change in the color of the legs and erectile dysfunction in men.

    Treatment includes lifestyle changes or medicine to prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and control pain and other symptoms.

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  • Peripheral Artery Aneurysms

    A weakening in the wall of blood vesselslocated in the abdomen (but not in the aorta), the groin, leg or neck, resulting in an abnormal dilation in that area. This increases the risk of clotting and interruption of blood flow, rupture and serious bleeding and compressing of adjacent tissues.

    Risk factors include a personal or family history of aneurysms, connective tissue disorders and smoking. Peripheral aneurysms often don't have symptoms and are diagnosed by chance while testing for other health problems.

    Treatment includes lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, and minimally invasive techniques such as a stents and surgery to remove the aneurysm.

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  • Premature Ventricular Contraction (PVC)

    The most common cause of irregular heart rhythms, these extra, disruptive heartbeats begin in one of the heart's two lower pumping chambers (ventricles) and can sometimes cause a fluttering or pounding sensation in the chest..

    The cause of an occasional PVC is usually unknown. Frequent PVCs may be the related to heart disease or injury to the heart, certain medications, drug, alcohol or caffeine use or high levels of adrenaline due to stress or exercise.

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  • Pulmonary Embolism (PE)

    A life-threatening blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in the lungs usually caused by blood clots that travel from the legs or other parts of the body (deep vein thrombosis or DVT). Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, a cough that sometime produces blood, a rapid, irregular heart beat and anxiety. Prompt medical attention is necessary to reduce the risk sudden death.

    Risk factors include heart disease, certain cancers and immobility after surgery.

    Prevention is the best treatment option and includes anticoagulation medication, compression stockings, leg elevation and physical activity, especially after surgery.

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  • Pulmonary Hypertension (PH)

    Pulmonary hypertension is high blood pressure in the arteries in your lungs (pulmonary arteries). These arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from your lungs to your heart and back. Symptoms of pulmonary hypertension include shortness of breath or feeling light-headed during activity, fatigue, chest pain, fast heartbeat, pain in right side of the abdomen, decreased appetite, fainting, swelling in the ankles or legs and blue lips or skin.

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  • Renal Artery Disease

    Narrowing of one or more renal arteries, due to a buildup of plaque, that prevents normal amounts of oxygen-rich blood from reaching the kidneys. This process reduces the ability of the kidneys to filter waste products and remove excess fluids, which increases blood pressure and injury to kidney tissue.

    Symptoms include high blood pressure that cannot be controlled with medications or lifestyle changes, as well as fluid retention or congestive heart failure. Women are at higher risk for this disease progression than men.

    Treatment is the same as that of cardiovascular disease and includes lifestyle changes, weight loss, low-salt and low-fat diet and stopping smoking, as well as treatment and medications to control high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. In some cases a procedure may be recommended to open up the blocked arteries to restore circulation.

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  • Stroke

    A medical emergency in which the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Brain cells begin to die within minutes as a result. Prompt medical intervention is essential treatment to minimize brain damage and loss of muscle control.

    Symptoms include trouble walking, speaking, seeing and understanding, as well as sudden, severe headache, loss of consciousness, paralysis or numbness of the face, arm, or leg. Risk factors include obesity, physical inactivity, advanced age, smoking, heavy alcohol use, diabetes, sleep apnea, heart disease and family history of stroke. A healthy lifestyle is recommended to prevent stroke.

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  • Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm (TAA)

    A rare ballooning (aneurysm) of a section of the aorta within the chest cavity that slowly degenerates. The aorta is the body's main blood vessel that starts at the heart and extends to the pelvis, where it branches toward the legs. The larger the aneurysm, the higher the risk of rupture that could cause aortic wall damage and bleeding that could cause death.

    The condition develops slowly over time and rarely causes symptoms until it grows large enough to compress nearby structures. Signs of the condition may include sudden voice hoarseness and difficulty swallowing. The cause is unknown and tends to run in some families.

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  • Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

    A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is caused by temporary disturbance of blood supply to an area of the brain, which results in a sudden, brief decrease in brain function. During a TIA, a person has stroke-like symptoms for less than 24 hours, usually less than 1-2 hours. A TIA is often considered a warning sign that a true stroke may happen in the future if something is not done to prevent it.

    The temporary loss of blood flow to the brain can be caused by a blood clot within an artery of the brain, a blood clot that travels to the brain from somewhere else in the body, injury to blood vessels, narrowing of a blood vessel in the brain or leading to the brain.

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  • Varicose Veins

    Distorted, budging or enlarged veins that most commonly appearing in the legs and feet due to the pressure of walking and standing, the force of gravity, as well as the task of carrying blood from the bottom of the body up to the heart. Caused by weak or damaged valves in the veins, any vein may become varicose.

    Varicose veins and the smaller version called spider veins can be unsightly and can cause aching pain, throbbing or cramping, tenderness or warmth to the touch, swelling or an itchy, burning rash. In severe cases varicose veins can lead to more serious health problems such as sores or skin ulcers, bleeding and blood clots, including deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

    Varicose veins cannot be prevented, although the risk can be reduced by regular exercise, leg elevation when resting, a low-salt diet rich in high-fiber foods, avoiding sitting or standing for long periods of time, avoiding high heel shoes and not crossing the legs for a long time when sitting.

    Treatment includes compression stockings, sclerotherapy (a chemical injected into the vein by a doctor), surface laser treatments and surgery.

    Learn about Vein & Laser Center Services

  • Ventricular Tachycardia

    A rare condition in which the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles) beat very quickly due to a problem with the heart's electrical impulses. When this happens, the heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the body because the chambers are beating so fast or out of sync with each other that they don't have time to fill properly.

    The episode may be a few seconds or longer and can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, palpitations or loss of consciousness— and in some cases cause the heart to stop (sudden cardiac arrest).

    This condition usually occurs in people with other heart conditions or as a result of certain medications or recreational drug use. Prevent includes eliminating risk factors with a healthy diet, exercise, stopping smoking, drinking in moderation and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control.

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