Vascular diseases are separated into arterial, venous, and lymphatic diseases.
Arterial disease comes in two main types and can affect blood vessels throughout the body:
• Narrowing or blockage which reduces the amount of blood that can get to the rest of the body. For example, narrowing of the main artery leading to the brain (carotid artery) can cause a stroke, and narrowing/blockage of arteries to the leg can cause claudication (muscle pain on exercise/walking that goes away on rest).
• Aneurysms occur when the wall of an artery is stretched and balloons out. An artery wall with an aneurysm is more likely to burst as the blood pumps through it. The most serious aneurysms occur in the aorta, which is the main blood vessel running from the heart to the abdomen. A ruptured aortic aneurysm is very dangerous and over 40% of people do not live through this.
Venous disease is most commonly experienced as varicose veins. The veins are abnormally swollen as a result of pressure and although they can look unsightly, often cause no symptoms. However, a range of problems can occur from leg ache and eczema to venous leg ulcers.
Lymphatic disease occurs when fluid in tissues cannot leave the affected area causing swelling (oedema), often in a limb. Some people are born with lymphatic disease, whilst others have problems as a result of recurring infection, radiotherapy or surgical removal of lymphatic channels.