Introduction to Vascular Diseases

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What are vascular diseases?

Vascular diseases are conditions causing an abnormality in the blood vessels, mainly the arteries or veins. Any person, whether young or old, whether healthy or not, may be at risk of vascular disease. If you are unsure if you have a vascular disease, please continue reading and see a specialist to receive advice and options for vascular disease treatment Singapore.

How do I know if I have vascular disease?

Here is a brief introduction to some common vascular diseases:

Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)

PVD is a condition causing the constriction (narrowing) of your blood vessels. Depending on which vessel is affected, the amount of blood flow towards the organ/limb supplied by that blood vessel becomes restricted resulting in insufficient oxygen and nutrients reaching that organ/limb to function at full capacity. The most common cause of vessel narrowing is atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque (from fatty deposits) in the vessel walls.

While PVD can affect any part of the body such as the brain and arms, but when PVD affects the arteries supplying the lower limbs, people usually feel pain or cramps in their legs and feet. In the early stages, people with PVD may not experience any symptoms. As the disease progresses, typical symptoms of PVD may start to appear, including claudication (walking-related pain in the buttocks, hips, calves and thighs), thinning of hair on the legs, heaviness or numbness in the leg muscles, slow-healing wounds on the legs, leg cramps (when lying down and resting) and reddish or blue discolouration in the feet and toes. Do note that this list is not exclusive, and if you suspect you have PVD, early review by a doctor will help with accurate diagnosis and proper treatment, which when initiated early will help to avoid serious limb and life threatening complications later on.

Deep Vein Thrombosis/Venous Thrombosis (DVT)

DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in one or more deep veins (veins far beneath the surface of the skin) of the body. The blood clot is usually formed in the legs or hips. This usually happens when there is pooling of blood in the veins for a significant period of time, such as during a long haul flight or during prolonged bed rest after major surgery. It can also be due to thickening of the blood in general (from infection or cancer), thus predisposing to increased risk of clots.

DVT is especially dangerous because a piece of the solid blood clot could break off and travel upwards through the bloodstream and block another important vessel – this is called an embolism. A pulmonary embolism – where the blood clot gets stuck in one of the blood vessels leading to the lung – poses the greatest risk, as it is potentially fatal. DVT can permanently damage the valves in the veins, and may cause lasting sores and swelling in the legs. However, DVT usually occurs without the affected individual showing visible symptoms.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)

The aorta is the main artery leading from the heart to the rest of the body. AAAs are a bulge in the aorta around the abdominal area, which pose a very serious danger of internal bleeding if they rupture. Someone may have an AAA which is getting bigger if they experience constant pain in or at the side of the belly area, back pain or feel a pulse near their belly button. An AAA is usually caused by atherosclerosis (hardening of the aorta wall), and high blood pressure (which weakens the aorta wall). The probability of getting an AAA increases with age, usage of tobacco, the presence of another aneurysm in other major blood vessels, and if one’s family member has previously had an AAA. To prevent getting AAA, one should observe a diet low in salt and saturated and trans fats, as well as stop or never start smoking. This is to reduce the chances of the onset of atherosclerosis and to maintain healthy blood pressure levels.

  • Carotid Artery Disease (CAD)

CAD is similar to PVD, except that it specifically affects the carotid arteries, the main arteries leading to the brain. CAD lessens the amount of blood flowing to the brain. The cause of CAD is the same, atherosclerosis, which narrows the walls of the arteries. CAD is however much more serious than normal PVD because the brain needs a constant supply of oxygen, and if deprived for even a few minutes, brain tissue will start to die. Even worse, if narrowing of the carotid arteries is too severe or a plaque on the wall of the arteries breaks off and causes a complete blockage of blood flow, it might cause a stroke due to too little oxygenated blood reaching the brain.

There are usually no early noticeable symptoms of CAD except for occasionally a transient ischemic attack (TIA) which is temporary loss of blood flow to the brain, one of the early signs of stroke. Someone may have a TIA if they experience sudden numbness or paralysis in one of their arms, legs or side of their face and they are unable to use their limbs properly (flailing, drooping etc). If you see someone having symptoms of TIA, you should call for medical help immediately.

Do I need to go for vascular disease treatment Singapore?

For most vascular diseases, it is recommended that you see a vascular specialist in order to have a comprehensive assessment and make an accurate diagnosis to guide appropriate treatment.

If left untreated, vascular diseases may escalate quickly and prove fatal. Feel free to book an appointment or contact us if you have any concerns!

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