Vascular diseases affect the circulatory system, which carries life-sustaining fluids throughout the body. The circulatory system is made up primarily of the arterial and venous systems.
Arteries carry blood, oxygen and nutrients to vital organs and tissues across every inch of the body. Veins return the oxygen-deprived blood from the organs back to the heart, and the heart pumps blood to the lungs, where the blood is replenished with oxygen.
Though common, especially with age, vascular diseases can lead to serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.
The two major arterial system disorders treated by vascular surgeons involve: 1) blockages in the arteries, and 2) aneurysms of the arteries.
Blockages in the Arteries
The major culprit with blockages is fatty plaque that builds up on the interior walls of blood vessels. Known as atherosclerosis or, hardening of the arteries, the plaque can grow inward from the artery walls, resulting in significant limitations of blood flow.
Blocked arteries can affect blood flow to several major organs, leading to potentially serious problems. For example:
- Blockages in the artery to the brain can lead to strokes.
- Blocked arteries to the legs can lead to pain and even amputations.
- Blocked intestinal arteries can cause pain when eating and more serious conditions.
Aneurysms of the Arteries
Aneurysms occur when the artery walls become weakened and the vessels balloon out. The most dreaded potential complication of aneurysms is that they can burst, resulting in catastrophic internal bleeding, an immediately life-threatening situation.
Aneurysms can occur in many arteries throughout the body; however, the most commonly seen aneurysms involve the aorta -- the largest blood vessel in the body. Ruptured aortic aneurysm can be rapidly fatal.
Problems with Veins
Veins are blood vessels that carry blood back to the heart. Vein problems range from milder conditions such as painful varicose veins, to severe issues such as blood clots in veins that can potentially lead to fatality.
The Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system maintains fluid balance in the body and fights infections. Lymphedema is a lymphatic system disorder which occurs when diseased or missing lymph vessels lead to chronic buildup of fluid in body tissue.
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