What are the effects of vascular disease on the body?

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The heart isn't the only part of the body that can be affected by narrowed, blocked, or damaged blood vessels. Diseases of the blood vessels (called vascular diseases) also affect other areas of the body.

Disease in the carotid arteries leading to the brain could cause a stroke.

Weak, thin, bulging areas (aneurysms) in the artery walls -- especially in the aorta (the large artery that carries oxygen-rich blood to different regions of the body) -- could cause the artery to rupture, leading to life-threatening bleeding.

Disease in the arteries leading to the arms or legs called peripheral artery disease (or PAD) could lead to poor circulation, difficulty walking, and loss of limbs.
Vascular disease is a condition that affects the arteries, veins, or lymphatic vessels. Because the functions of the blood vessels include supplying all organs and tissues of the body with oxygen and nutrients, removal of waste products, fluid balance, and other functions, conditions that affect the vascular system (or circulatory system) may affect the part(s) of the body supplied by a particular vascular network, such as the coronary arteries of the heart.

Examples of the effects of vascular disease include:
  • coronary artery disease -- heart attack, angina (chest pain)
  • cerebrovascular disease -- stroke, transient ischemic attack (a sudden or a temporary loss of blood flow to an area of the brain, usually lasting less than five minutes but not longer than 24 hours, with complete recovery)
  • peripheral artery disease -- claudication (pain or discomfort in the thigh, calf, and/or buttocks that occurs when walking), critical limb ischemia (lack of adequate blood supply to the limb/leg at rest)
  • aneurysm -- a bulging, weakened area in the wall of a blood vessel resulting in an abnormal widening or ballooning of the aorta (narrowing of the aorta, the largest artery in the body)
  • thoracic aortic aneurysm -- a bulging, weakened area in the wall of a blood vessel resulting in an abnormal widening or ballooning in the thoracic, or chest, portion of the aorta
  • abdominal aortic aneurysm -- a bulging, weakened area in the wall of a blood vessel resulting in an abnormal widening or ballooning in the abdominal portion of the aorta
  • peripheral aneurysm -- bulging, weakened area in the wall of the blood vessel resulting in an abnormal widening or ballooning of an artery in the extremities
  • deep vein thrombosis (DVT) -- a blood clot in a deep vein located within the muscles of the leg
  • varicose veins -- a bulging or weakened area in the wall of a superficial vein, just under the skin
  • lymphedema -- swelling caused by interruption of the normal drainage pattern in the lymph nodes
  • renal (kidney) artery diseases -- renal artery stenosis (blockage of a renal artery) caused by atherosclerosis or fibromuscular dysplasia (a condition that weakens the walls of medium-sized arteries and occurs predominantly in young women of childbearing age)

Continue Learning about Vascular Disease

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.