Arterial disease in its most basic form is the result of fatty plaque deposits blocking your blood vessels. This prevents blood cells from properly circulating to important body parts, such as the heart and brain. Arterial disease is often an underlying cause of heart attacks, strokes, and other potentially fatal medical conditions.
Arterial disease affects millions of people in the United States each year, and it’s important to know the signs. Common early warning signs include cramping in the legs or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles while walking as these areas begin to receive fewer properly circulating blood cells. Recognizing the symptoms and seeking help from a vascular specialist can save lives.
What are the most common types of arterial disease?
There are numerous types of arterial diseases, and each one presents a different range of symptoms. Some of the more common arterial diseases are peripheral (limb) arterial disease, carotid (neck) artery disease, and, of course, coronary (heart) artery disease.
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is more common in people over the age of 50, but can be found in patients under age 50 who have other risk factors.
PAD affects the limbs, particularly the legs. Due to deposit buildup, blood does not flow freely through the arteries. Less well known than coronary or carotid arterial diseases, it often goes undiagnosed and, as a result, leaves many at a higher risk for heart attack, stroke, gangrene, and even amputation, depending on the location of the fatty deposits. Symptoms include cramping in the legs; pain or tiredness in the legs or hips; or coldness/numbness in the feet.
Coronary Artery Disease
More commonly known as heart disease, coronary arterial disease is the leading cause of heart attacks. Narrowed arteries in the heart can lead to symptoms such as angina (chest pain) and shortness of breath when emotionally or physically stressed. If the arteries become completely blocked, heart disease can turn into a heart attack. Heart disease can be deadly if not caught and treated quickly, and should be taken seriously in order to prevent heart attacks. The disease can also cause other conditions such as heart failure and arrhythmia.
Carotid Artery Disease
The carotid arteries refer to the main arteries on either side of the neck, which divide into internal and external carotid arteries. The internal supplies blood flow to the brain, while the external supplies blood to the face, scalp, and neck. Any buildup of deposits in the carotid arteries makes it more difficult for blood cells and oxygen to reach your brain, which can result in a stroke. While strokes are known for their deadliness, they also can cause severe temporary or permanent debilitation in the patients who survive.
What treatment options are available for arterial diseases?
Diagnosis of arterial diseases usually only requires a CT, MR Angiogram, or PVR.
Treatments for most arterial diseases can start with simple lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Smoking and tobacco use can also contribute to arterial diseases and quitting can help prevent further damage to the arteries.
Advanced cases may require medical procedures such as an angioplasty, stenting, and surgical bypass. An atherectomy, which is a relatively new procedure, is a minimally invasive surgery that removes plaque from an artery, offering an alternative to angioplasty.
If you believe you are suffering from an arterial disease, contact Virginia Interventional and Vascular Associates for a consultation at (540) 654-9118.