Understanding Vascular Medicine

Your body is like a machine. It has multiple complex systems that work together to maintain proper functioning. The vascular system circulates blood, oxygen, and nutrients throughout the body. Any condition affecting this system can result in a host of medical issues, including heart attack, stroke, or even amputation.

Here's a closer look at vascular medicine and what a vascular medicine surgeon does. 

What Is Vascular Medicine?

Vascular medicine is a specialty that diagnoses and treats conditions affecting the vascular system, including:

  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD) — PAD is a narrowing of the arteries that limits blood flow to the legs, feet, and arms. It can cause pain, cramping, or numbness in the limbs.
  • Aneurysms — An aneurysm is a weakened or bulging area along a blood vessel, usually an artery. If not treated, it can burst and cause life-threatening bleeding.
  • Venous disease — Venous or vein diseases include varicose veins and spider veins, enlarged and dilated veins that appear on the skin's surface. They can cause swelling, pain, and other symptoms.
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) — A thrombus or blood clot can cause swelling, pain, and tenderness in the affected area. If it travels to the lungs, it can cause a pulmonary embolism, which is often fatal. DVT is a blood clot that forms in the deep veins of the leg.

Vascular medicine surgeons are doctors with specialized training to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the blood vessels.

How Are Vascular Diseases Diagnosed?

Vascular medicine specialists use various non-invasive techniques to diagnose vascular conditions, including:

  • Ultrasound
  • CT scans (computed tomography)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Angiography

These tests allow your vascular medicine surgeon to 'see' into your body and determine the location and severity of vascular damage or blockage.

What Treatments Are Available?

The treatment for a vascular condition depends on the severity of the condition and the individual case. In some cases, lifestyle changes may be enough to improve the condition. These could include quitting smoking, increasing exercise, and eating a healthier diet. In other cases, treatment options may involve prescription medication or minimally-invasive procedures such as angioplasty or stent placement.

For severe cases, you may need to see a vascular medicine surgeon. Their area of expertise includes clots, arteriosclerosis (hardening and blockage of arteries), aortic aneurysms, and carotid artery disease. Other conditions that may require vascular surgery include complications of diabetes, lymphedema, and peripheral vascular disease.

A vascular surgeon works closely with a team of specialists (including vascular medicine specialists, interventional radiologists, and anesthesiologists) to ensure the best possible results for the patient. The goal of vascular medicine surgery is to alleviate pain, improve mobility, and reduce the risk of complications related to vascular disease.

The vascular system plays a critical role in maintaining the body's overall function. Unfortunately, it is not immune to diseases, conditions, and disorders. Thankfully, medical professionals specializing in vascular medicine, like your vascular medicine surgeon, can treat such issues.