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Vascular disease

Vascular disease is any condition that affects the vascular system, which includes the arteries, veins and vessels that move blood and lymph (white blood cells) throughout the body. The vascular system (also called the circulatory system) also carries waste away from the body’s organs.

UF Health cardiologists and vascular surgeons are experts in treating many forms of vascular disease, which can affect the function of the arteries, veins and/or vessels, as well as impact blood flow in the body.

Vascular disease: Types

  • Aortic disease: Conditions that affect the aorta, which supplies blood from the heart, are called aortic diseases.
  • Blood clotting disorders: Also known as hypercoagulable states, these conditions occur when blood clots flow into the veins, not just at the site of an injury, as blood clotting should function.
  • Buerger’s disease: Also known as thromboangiitis obliterans, this rare condition occurs when the blood vessels of the arms and legs become inflamed and swollen. This can cause the blood vessels to become blocked with blood clots.
  • Lymphedema: This condition occurs when there is swelling of the arms or legs, most often caused by the removal of or damage to the lymph nodes.
  • Peripheral artery disease: This condition occurs when there is a narrowing of the peripheral arteries that carry blood to the legs, stomach, arms and head.
  • Peripheral vascular disease and varicose veins: Peripheral vascular disease occurs when there is damage or blockage to the veins that carry blood from the hands and feet and back to the heart. Varicose veins are the gnarled, enlarged veins that result from this disease.
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon: This condition occurs when the smaller arteries that supply blood to the skin become narrowed, causing not enough blood to reach the skin.

Vascular disease: Symptoms

Just as there are many types of vascular disease, there are also many symptoms. You should check with your UF Health Jacksonville specialist if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the legs, feet, arms or hands – may be constant or may come and go
  • Wounds or open sores on the feet, toes or fingers that don’t heal
  • Cramping in the legs or hips during physical activity
  • Inflamed veins
  • Noticeably cooler skin temperature on the lower leg, foot or fingers compared with the rest of the body
  • Skin changes color in cold temperature
  • Skin changes color when you face a stressful situation
  • Skin numbness or tingling

Vascular disease: Diagnosis

The team at UF Health Jacksonville may use one or more of the following tests to determine if you have vascular disease:

  • A complete physical exam to assess your overall health and the strength of your pulse throughout your body.
  • Ankle-brachial index (ABI) to compare the blood pressure in your feet with the blood pressure in your arms to assess how your blood is flowing.
  • An angiography to assess how the blood is flowing throughout your body and to see if there are any blockages.
  • Doppler and ultrasound (Duplex) imaging to determine if there is a blockage in your arteries.
  • Computed tomography (CT) angiography to obtain detailed images of the arteries in your abdomen, pelvis and legs.
  • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) to obtain detailed images of your arteries without using an X-ray.
  • A non-invasive Allen test to assess if your veins are working properly.

Vascular disease: Treatments

When diagnosed with vascular disease, your cardiovascular specialist at UF Health Jacksonville will recommend lifestyle modifications that can decrease your risk of complications related to the condition, such as:

  • Adopting a heart-healthy diet low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and sodium, and high in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Quitting smoking
  • Managing diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol

While making these lifestyle modifications is important, it is oftentimes not enough to treat vascular disease. Your cardiologist may recommend one or more of the following prescription medications to help manage your condition:

  • Blood pressure medications
  • Cholesterol medications
  • Anticoagulant (anti-clotting) medications
  • Blood thinning medications
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Alpha blockers
  • ACE inhibitors

In severe cases of vascular disease, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure to have the affected veins removed.

Vascular disease: Complications

If you have a condition that affects your vascular system, it is important that you seek treatment. If left untreated, vascular disease can cause:

Why choose UF Health Jacksonville?

UF Health includes internationally recognized physicians who are leaders in cardiac and vascular care, research and education. Our cardiologists and vascular surgeons, as faculty of the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville, participate in numerous national and international clinical trials.

These physicians provide services at the UF Health Jacksonville, which has fully integrated, comprehensive heart and vascular programs, including a coronary interventional program, nuclear program, electrophysiology program, non-invasive program and peripheral interventional program. UF Health Jacksonville is renowned for treating patients with complex diseases and being on the forefront of advancing the science of interventional cardiology. Using the most sophisticated equipment available, the center offers state-of-the-art diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitative cardiac services. Many leading-edge interventional therapies are offered in Northeast Florida only at UF Health.

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