Vascular disease is an abnormal condition of blood vessels including veins and arteries. The body circulates its blood through blood vessels, if any problems should occur within these areas, it could cause severe pain, disability, and even death. Vascular diseases are very common although many individuals don’t even know they have one. Thus, outside of the heart, vascular diseases can present themselves anywhere. Unfortunately, these diseases seem to be turning into an epidemic in the US with the increase of Type II diabetes, obesity, and an aging population. 

Types and Symptoms 

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is one type of vascular disease that affects around 8.5 million Americans each year and pulmonary emboli and DVTs affect at least 900,000 people. The most common of vascular diseases are PAD, stroke, critical limb ischemia (CLI), carotid artery disease (CAD), abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), deep vein thrombosis (DVT), arteriovenous malformation (AVM), chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), pulmonary embolism (blood clots), and varicose veins. 

Etiology 

Vascular diseases can occur at any time in anyone. Everyone is at risk and both men and women are affected equally. It is most common for vascular disease to occur around sites of turbulent blood flow, mainly when the direction of blood flow changes abruptly.  
 
Depending on the specific disease, causes may include: 
 
• Infection 
• Genetics 
• Medicines and hormones 
• Injury 
• Heart diseases such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol  
 
The cause may not be known in some cases. 
 
Recent studies have found a common genetic variation in chromosome 6p24, in five vascular diseases including coronary artery disease, cervical artery dissection, migraine headaches, hypertension, and fibromuscular dysplasia. However, it still isn’t clear how this polymorphism affects risks for numerous diseases.  

Glossary of Terms 

• Amurosis fugax – Temporary vision loss or blindness due to plaque blocking the blood supply to the eye. 
• Aneurysm – The abnormal weakening of the artery wall that causes a balloon-like appearance and enlarging it to over twice its normal size. 
• Antiplatelet – Medication, like aspirin that prevents platelets from clumping together, which often occurs first in artery clotting. 
• Aorta – The main blood vessel in the abdomen and chest that transports the blood from the heart. 
• Artery – A blood vessel that carries oxygen-rich blood to the body from the heart.  
• Atherosclerosis, arteriosclerosis – a process that takes place within the arteries where fatty substance deposits, calcium, cholesterol, or fibrin (plaque) builds up inside the inner lining 
• Blood clots – pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis.  
• Blood pressure – The force of blood that pushes against blood vessel walls. 
• Bypass – A surgical procedure that redirects blood flow around blocked arteries. 
• Coronary artery disease – a disease that involves blockage or narrowing of an artery usually caused by plaque buildup. 
• Raynaud’s disease – a disorder that makes the blood vessels narrow when you feel stressed or cold. 
• Stroke – a serious condition that occurs when blood stops flowing to your brain. 
• Varicose veins – twisted, swollen veins that appear under the skin. 
• Vasculitis – inflamed blood vessels. 

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