Vascular Conditions

Our physicians specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of carotid artery disease, aortic aneurysms, and poor circulation to the legs and the abdominal organs. This includes:



When a weak area of the abdominal aorta expands or bulges, it is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). The pressure from blood flowing through your abdominal aorta can cause a weakened part of the aorta to bulge, much like a balloon. A normal aorta is about 1 inch (or about 2 centimeters) in diameter. However, an AAA can stretch the aorta beyond its safety margin as it expands. Aneurysms are a health risk because they can burst or rupture. A ruptured aneurysm can cause severe internal bleeding, which can lead to shock or even death.

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Aortoiliac occlusive disease occurs when your iliac arteries become narrowed or blocked. The aorta, your body’s main artery, splits into branches at about the level of your belly button. (iliac arteries). The iliac arteries go through your pelvis into your legs, where they divide into many smaller arteries that run down to your toes. Aortoiliac disease is considered a type of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) because it affects arteries, which are blood vessels that carry blood away from your heart to your limbs.

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Arm artery disease is an uncommon form of peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Your arteries carry blood rich in oxygen and nutrients from your heart to the rest of your body. When an artery between your chest and your hand becomes blocked, your arm or hand does not receive enough blood or oxygen. Like other types of PAD, arm artery disease can be caused by atherosclerosis, which means the hardening of the arteries. Your arteries are normally smooth and unobstructed on the inside, but as you age, a sticky substance called plaque can build up in the walls of your arteries. Plaque is made up of cholesterol, calcium, and fibrous tissue. In atherosclerosis, your arteries narrow or become blocked as plaque builds up on your artery walls.



Carotid artery disease occurs when the major arteries in your neck become narrowed or blocked by plaque. These arteries, called the carotid arteries (which extend from your aorta to the brain), supply your brain with blood. The plaque is made up of cholesterol, calcium, and fibrous tissue, and as plaque builds up, your arteries narrow and stiffen. This process is called atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. When enough plaque builds up to reduce or disturb blood flow through your carotid arteries it is called carotid artery disease. Carotid artery disease is a serious health problem because it can cause strokes or TIAs (symptoms of a stroke). You are more likely to develop carotid artery disease as you age.

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Claudication is pain, tired or weak feeling that occurs in your legs, usually during activities such as walking. The symptoms typically begin when you start to exercise and go away a short time after you rest. When the arteries that carry blood to your legs become narrowed or blocked, your leg muscles may not receive enough of the blood and oxygen they need to support physical activity. However, your muscles need more oxygen when you exercise, so if the arteries in your legs are narrowed to the point that too little blood reaches your muscles, you may feel leg pain when you walk. This is a serious warning sign for stroke.

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Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot in one of the deep veins. You have three kinds of veins. Superficial veins lie close to your skin, and deep veins lie in groups of muscles. Perforating veins connect the superficial veins to the deep veins with one-way valves. Deep veins lead to the vena cava, your body’s largest vein, which runs directly to your heart. DVT can cause sudden swelling, pain, or a sensation of warmth. DVT can be dangerous because it can cause a complication known as pulmonary embolism, in which a blood clot breaks free from your deep veins, travels through your bloodstream, and lodges in your lungs. This clot can block blood flow in your lungs, which can strain your heart and lungs. A pulmonary embolism is a potentially fatal medical emergency.

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Diabetic vascular disease refers to the development of blockages in the arteries, sometimes called the hardening of the arteries throughout the body because of diabetes. Diabetes is when too much glucose (blood sugar) is in your bloodstream because of your body’s inability to either produce insulin (a hormone that you need to transport glucose from the bloodstream into your cells where it is used to produce energy) or to use insulin efficiently. You may also develop several vascular diseases that have been linked to diabetes. One of these is retinopathy, which is the abnormal growth of blood vessels in your retina, part of your eye. Another condition linked to diabetes is a kidney disease called nephropathy. If you have diabetes, you are also more prone to hardening of the arteries, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease. You may also develop neuropathy, a condition of the nerves themselves that causes a loss of protective sensation in the toes or feet.

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The term hyperlipidemia means high lipid levels. Hyperlipidemia includes several conditions, but it usually means that you have high cholesterol and high triglyceride levels. High lipid levels can speed up a process called atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Your arteries are normally smooth and unobstructed on the inside, but as you age, a sticky substance called plaque forms in the walls of your arteries. Plaque is made of lipids and other materials circulating in your blood. As more plaque builds up, your arteries can narrow and stiffen. Eventually, enough plaque may build up to reduce blood flow through your arteries, and cause an array of medical issues.

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Lymphedema occurs when a clear fluid known as lymphatic fluid builds up in the soft tissues of your body, usually in an arm or leg. The lymphatic system consists of lymph vessels and lymph nodes that run through your body. Lymph vessels collect a fluid that is made up of protein, water, fats, and wastes from the cells of the body. Lymph vessels carry this fluid to your lymph nodes. Lymph nodes filter waste materials and foreign products and then return the fluid to your blood. If your vessels or nodes become damaged or are missing, the lymph fluid cannot move freely through the system. The fluids can then build up and cause swelling, known as lymphedema, in the affected arms or legs.

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The mesenteric arteries are the arteries that supply blood to your large and small intestines. Ischemia occurs when your blood cannot flow through your arteries as well as it should, and your intestines do not receive the necessary oxygen to perform normally. Mesenteric ischemia usually involves the small intestine, but it may also involve other intra-abdominal organs such as the colon, liver, and stomach. Mesenteric ischemia usually occurs when one or more of your mesenteric arteries narrows or becomes blocked. When this blockage occurs, you can experience severe abdominal pain. Over time, often quickly, the blockage may worsen and cause tissues in your intestine to die because they lack enough blood flow. This usually occurs in smokers or in patients above 60.

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When a weak area of a blood vessel expands or bulges significantly, it is called an aneurysm. Peripheral aneurysms affect the arteries other than the aorta. Most peripheral aneurysms occur in the popliteal artery, which runs down the back of your lower thigh and knee. Less commonly, peripheral aneurysms also develop in the femoral artery in your groin, the carotid artery in your neck, or sometimes the arteries in your arms. A special type of peripheral aneurysm that forms in the arteries feeding the kidneys or the bowel is called a visceral aneurysm. Peripheral Aneurysms form clots that may block blood flow to your limbs or brain. Peripheral aneurysms, especially if they are large, can also compress a nearby nerve or vein and cause pain, numbness, or swelling.

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When the arteries in your legs become blocked, your legs do not receive enough blood or oxygen, and you may have a condition called peripheral artery disease (PAD), sometimes called leg artery disease. PAD can cause discomfort or pain when you walk. The pain can occur in your hips, buttocks, thighs, knees, shins, or upper feet. Leg artery disease is considered a type of peripheral arterial disease because it affects the arteries, blood vessels that carry blood away from your heart to your limbs. You are more likely to develop PAD as you age. One in three people age 70 or older has PAD. Smoking or having diabetes increases your chances of developing the disease sooner.

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A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that forms in a vein, travels through your bloodstream, and lodges in your lungs. A pulmonary embolism is a medical emergency because a large embolism, or sometimes many repeated smaller ones, can be fatal in a short time. If your lung arteries become blocked by a blood clot, you may experience high blood pressure in your lungs. As a result, your heart pumps harder than usual. When your heart is continually overworked, it may enlarge, and it may eventually fail to perform. A large pulmonary embolism can cause your lungs and heart to fail.

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Renovascular conditions affect the blood vessels of your kidneys, called the renal arteries and veins. When your kidney blood vessels narrow or have a clot, your kidney is less able to do its work. Your physician may diagnose you with renal artery stenosis or renal vein thrombosis. Renal artery stenosis is the narrowing of kidney arteries. This condition may cause high blood pressure and may eventually lead to kidney failure. Renal vein thrombosis means that you have a blood clot blocking a vein in your kidney. Blood clots in renal veins are uncommon and rarely affect the kidney, but they can sometimes travel to and lodge in arteries supplying your lungs, causing a dangerous condition called a pulmonary embolism.

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The part of your aorta that runs through your chest is called the thoracic aorta. When a weak area of your thoracic aorta expands or bulges, it is called a thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA). Thoracic aortic aneurysms are serious health risks because they can burst or rupture. A ruptured aneurysm can cause severe internal bleeding, which can rapidly lead to shock or death.

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Your thoracic outlet is a small space just behind and below your collarbone. The blood vessels and nerves that serve your arm are located in this space. Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) is the presence of hand and arm symptoms due to pressure against the nerves or blood vessels in the thoracic outlet area. There are three types of TOS. The type depends on which structure is compressed — nerve, vein, or artery. Each type has different symptoms, tests, and treatments.

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Varicose veins are swollen veins that you can see through your skin. They often look blue, bulging, and twisted. Left untreated, varicose veins may worsen over time. Varicose veins can cause aching and feelings of fatigue as well as skin changes like rashes, redness, and sores. As many as 40 million Americans, most of them women, have varicose veins. Factors that can increase your risk for varicose veins include having a family history of varicose veins, being overweight, not exercising enough, smoking, standing or sitting for long periods of time, or having DVT.

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When your leg veins cannot pump enough blood back to your heart, you have chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). Over the long-term, blood pressure that is higher than normal inside your leg veins causes CVI. This can lead to damage to the valves, which can further worsen the problem. In some instances, the valves that prevent blood from flowing “backward,” can be congenitally defective. CVI is also sometimes called chronic venous disease, or CVD. If you have CVI, your ankles may swell and your calves may feel tight. Your legs may also feel heavy, tired, restless, or achy. You may feel pain while walking or shortly after stopping. CVI may be associated with varicose veins.

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