Learn About Vascular Diseases & Prevention
When it comes to vascular disease and prevention, it’s important to know what symptoms to look for and the treatment options available at FMC. More important still, focus on recognizing the risk factors and identify how you can make lifestyle changes to help prevent heart and vascular disease altogether.
Our vascular services include treatment for the following conditions:
An abdominal aortic aneurysm occurs when part of the aortic artery in the abdomen weakens and bulges. Aneurysms are often discovered during a routine visit with your provider or during tests for another condition; this is because they develop slowly over many years and often have no symptoms unless they rupture. A ruptured aneurysm is a life-threatening situation that requires immediate medical attention.
Many aneurysms start off very small and stay small, although some can grow quickly. That’s why if you are diagnosed with an aneurysm, you should work closely with your physician to monitor its growth. When an aneurysm gets too large or rapidly increases in size, your physician may recommend an interventional procedure or surgery to reinforce the weakened area to prevent a medical emergency.
- Often times, there are no symptoms of an aneurysm.
- Sometimes, as an aneurysm enlarges, people notice a pulsating feeling near the naval, back pain or a constant pain in the abdomen or side of the abdomen.
- If an aneurysm ruptures, symptoms may develop very quickly and include: pain (in the side, back or abdomen), clammy skin, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, rapid heart rate, shock and low blood pressure.
The goal of treatment is to prevent the aneurysm from rupturing. Generally, the treatment options include medical monitoring, or if the aneurysm is large or fast growing, surgery may be the best option.
- Medical monitoring – if the aneurysm is small and there are no symptoms, treatment often involves regular ultrasound exams to measure the size of the area over time.
- Surgery – if the aneurysm is large or growing quickly, surgery may be ordered. The most common approach is an interventional procedure in which a graft is inserted through catheter in the leg and threaded into the aorta to reinforce the weakened area. Open abdominal surgery involves replacing the damaged section of the aorta with a small tube or graft which is sewn into place.
- Whether a patient has open or endovascular surgery depends on a variety of factors, including the size and location of the aneurysm, the patient’s age and other risk factors the patient may have.
Carotid artery disease is a narrowing of the carotid artery due to a buildup of plaque. Left unmanaged, carotid artery disease can lead to a stroke.
- Carotid artery disease often has no symptoms, and the condition may go unnoticed until a stroke occurs. If you have a family history of carotid artery disease, it is important to see a physician to further evaluate your risk factors, monitor your condition and determine the best course of action.
Treatment for carotid artery disease focuses on lifestyle changes, medication and procedures when needed.
- Medications – medications may be given to reduce the possibility of a stroke by lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol or thinning the blood.
- Lifestyle changes – avoid tobacco, exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet and manage other conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
- Stents or surgery – more advanced disease may require surgery to remove the plaque (carotid endarterectomy), and possibly a stent to keep the artery open.
DVT is a blood clot in a deep vein – usually in a leg, but sometimes in an arm or other veins. Blood clots can be triggered by surgery, cancers, extended periods of sitting or bedrest, pregnancy, injuries to blood vessels, birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy.
- Swelling (usually in one leg or arm)
- Pain or tenderness, often described as a cramp
- Redness or warmth in the sore area
Treatment for DVT focuses on preventing the clot from getting bigger and breaking off, potentially forming a pulmonary embolism in the lungs. Options include:
- Blood thinners – to keep the clot from getting bigger and keep additional clots forming.
- Clot buster drugs – used in more severe cases, or when other medications aren’t working. Clot buster drugs (thrombolytics) are used to break up a clot quickly.
- Filter – for patients who can’t take blood thinning medications, a filter may be inserted into the abdomen to catch blood clots before they get to the lungs.
- Compression stockings – to reduce swelling and prevent blood from pooling and clotting.
Peripheral artery disease is a narrowing of the arteries to the legs, stomach, arms and head. PAD can result in coronary artery disease, heart attack and stroke. Left untreated, it can lead to gangrene and amputation. PAD may be caused by diabetes, blot clots, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, inflammation, injury or trauma. PAD may lead to blood clots deep in the veins (DVT) or pulmonary embolisms (PE) if a blood clot breaks off and goes to the lungs.
- Cramping, pain or tiredness in the legs or hips while walking or climbing stairs which often goes away with rest.
Treatment for PAD focuses on reducing symptoms and preventing the progression of the disease. In many cases, PAD can be managed by lifestyle changes, exercise and medication:
- Medications – medications may be given to reduce high blood pressure, reduce high cholesterol or to thin the blood.
- Lifestyle changes — avoid tobacco, exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, manage other conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure and practice good foot and skin care.
- Stents or surgery — more advanced PAD may require an interventional procedure such as angioplasty to widen blocked vessels or stent placement to keep a vessel open or peripheral artery bypass surgery may be formed to redirect blood flow around a blocked vessel.
A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that has traveled to the lungs and blocks some or all of the blood supply. Pulmonary embolisms can be very serious and often life-threatening.
Some PE have no symptoms and may result in sudden death. If there are symptoms, they may include:
- Shortness of breath
- Sharp stabbing chest pain when breathing deep
- Fast breathing and heart rate
- Blood when coughing
- Light headedness or fainting
Treatment options for PE include:
- Medication – to thin the blood or dissolve clots.
- Interventional procedures — to remove clots.