Vascular Diseases Q & A
By Dr. Matthew S. Edwards
What Do Conway Twitty, Lucille Ball, Albert Einstein And George G. Scott All Have In Common?
All suffered from severe vascular disease and died from a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. An aneurysm is just one of many important vascular diseases.
What Is Vascular Disease?
Vascular disease is defined as disorders affecting your circulatory system, which can include arteries, veins, and lymphatic vessels outside of the heart and brain.
Most Americans are familiar with heart disease, including heart attacks which result from blockages in the vessels that carry blood to the heart. But often people do not realize that blockages caused by a buildup of plaque and cholesterol affect more than heart arteries.
Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, so blockages can occur in all arteries with serious effects.
What Factors Make Vascular Disease More Likely?
Factors increasing the likelihood of arterial vascular disease include smoking, family history, diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol. Vascular disease in veins is affected by family history, clotting disorders, and obesity.
What Are Four Important Vascular Diseases?
- Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) is a bulge in the wall of the aorta, which is an artery in the abdomen and the main blood vessel leaving the heart. AAA is caused by progressive weakening of the aortic wall, which causes a “ballooning” of the vessel. The aneurysm will continue to grow and may rupture if not diagnosed and treated, accounting for 15,000 deaths in the United States each year.
- Carotid Artery Disease (Stroke Risk) occurs when the arteries leading to the brain become narrow due to plaque build-up caused by arteriosclerosis. The carotid artery plaque may break off and lodge in the brain arteries causing a stroke. A stroke occurs when part of the brain is damaged by decreased circulation. Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States and up to half of all strokes are caused by carotid artery blockages.
- Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) occurs when arteries in the arms and legs narrow and there is decreased blood circulation to the limbs. Patients with PAD may not have symptoms or may have leg pain when walking, pain at rest, open sores, or wounds that will not heal. Patients with PAD are three times more likely to die from heart attacks or strokes than those without PAD.
- Venous Disease often occurs due to blood clots or leaking vein valves and leads to pooling of blood in the leg. This can cause pain and swelling especially when standing. Patients may develop varicose veins from valve problems or a clot. Chronic venous disease is responsive to simple measures that you can begin with your physician’s direction. Prevention can reduce the risk of developing additional swelling, pain and varicosity of your veins. Some patients benefit from minimally invasive procedures.
How Are These Diseases Diagnosed?
Vascular diseases are diagnosed through history and physical examination supplemented with specialized ultrasound studies that are painless and not time intensive for patients. These studies are performed in our Vascular Lab where our specially trained technologists perform over 13,000 studies each year. The lab is accredited in all noninvasive vascular testing.
Why Should You Choose A Teaching Facility For Your Vascular Care?
Wake Forest Baptist Health offers a state-of-the-art program for managing every aspect of vascular disease. Few centers in the nation provide such breadth of expertise and services under one umbrella, dedicated entirely to patient care, education and research in vascular diseases.
Our faculty is unique in the region, combining board-certified, fellowship trained specialists from both vascular surgery and vascular medicine in one program.
Our physicians have more than 130 years of combined experience caring for patients with vascular diseases and in training the next generation of vascular specialists. For patients, this translates into a comprehensive evaluation culminating in an integrated care plan including medical therapies with minimally invasive “endovascular” procedures or traditional open surgery when indicated, for the broad spectrum of vascular diseases.