Vascular disease refers to an abnormality of the blood vessels (veins or arteries). Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) refers to abnormality of blood vessels throughout the body except those in the heart and brain. Arteries carry blood from the heart to other parts of the body. Veins carry blood to the heart from the legs and other organs in the body. Vascular disease results from degeneration of normal arteries and veins as the result of the normal aging process and can be made worse by certain factors that damage blood vessels. Treatments aimed at reducing vascular damage can slow down and sometimes reverse vascular disease, or give the body a chance to “heal itself.” When these kinds of efforts are not sufficient, surgery may be required to correct abnormalities.
Since vascular disease is a relatively common problem, there are many physicians who treat vascular disease. These include family practitioners and general internists, cardiologists, neurologists, nephrologists, radiologists and vascular surgeons. It is not uncommon for patients to have coordinated care between several of these physicians who specialize in vascular disease.
Despite being “surgeons,” about 66%-75% of patients treated by vascular surgeons are managed medically, generally in collaboration with the patient’s primary care practitioner. For patients who require surgery, 60-70% can have “minimally invasive” procedures performed—either as an outpatient or with a brief, one- to two-day hospital stay. Recovery periods for minimally invasive procedures are typically less than two weeks at home.
Vascular conditions can be divided into diseases of the arteries (arterial) and diseases of the veins (venous). Common vascular conditions are listed below. Use the link for a deeper discussion about each one.