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Types of vascular diseases

Vascular disease includes any condition that affects your circulatory system, including the arteries, veins, lymph vessels and some blood disorders.

Vascular pain develops when the communication between blood vessels and nerves is interrupted or damaged due to vascular disease or injuries.

As the heart beats, it pumps blood through a system of blood vessels called the circulatory system. The vessels are elastic tubes that carry blood to every part of the body. Arteries carry blood away from the heart and veins return it.

The following conditions fall under the category of vascular disease:

Peripheral arterial disease

Like the blood vessels of the heart (coronary arteries) and brain (cerebral arteries), your peripheral arteries (blood vessels outside your heart and brain) may also develop atherosclerosis, the build-up of fat and cholesterol deposits, called plaque, on the inside walls. Over time, the build-up narrows the artery. Eventually the narrowed artery causes less blood to flow and a condition called ischaemia can occur. Ischaemia is inadequate blood flow to the body's tissue. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) can cause various symptoms including leg pain or cramps with activity (a condition called claudication), changes in skin colour, sores or ulcers, and feeling tired in the legs. Total loss of circulation can lead to gangrene and loss of a limb.

Aneurysm

An aneurysm is an abnormal bulge in the wall of a blood vessel. They can form in any blood vessel, but they occur most commonly in the aorta ( aortic aneurysm), which is the main blood vessel leaving the heart. The two types of aortic aneurysm are:

  • Thoracic aortic aneurysm (part of aorta in the chest).
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Small aneurysms generally pose no threat. However, aneurysms increase a person's risk of:

  • Atherosclerotic plaque (fat, cholesterol, and calcium deposits) formation at the site of the aneurysm.
  • A clot (thrombus) may form at the site and dislodge.
  • Increase in the aneurysm size, causing it to press on nerves or other organs, causing pain.
  • Aneurysm rupture - because the artery wall thins at this spot, it is fragile and may burst under stress. A sudden rupture of an aortic aneurysm may be life threatening.

Renal (kidney) artery disease

Renal artery disease is most commonly caused by atherosclerosis of the renal arteries (see above). It occurs in people with generalised vascular disease. Less often, renal artery disease can be caused by a congenital (present at birth) abnormal development of the tissue that makes up the renal arteries. This type of renal artery disease occurs in younger age groups.

Raynaud's phenomenon (also called Raynaud's disease or Raynaud's syndrome)

Raynaud's phenomenon consists of spasms of the small arteries of the fingers and sometimes the toes, brought on by exposure to cold or stress. Certain occupational exposures bring on Raynaud's. The episodes produce a temporary lack of blood supply to the area, causing the skin to appear white or bluish and feel cold or numb. In some cases, the symptoms of Raynaud's may be related to underlying diseases (for example, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or scleroderma).

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