How healthy is your circulatory system? Perhaps you’ve never thought about it, but healthy blood vessels are an important part of your overall wellbeing. After all, their job is to make sure every organ in your body receives an adequate blood supply so it can function properly.
Here are the top four signs that you may need to see a vascular specialist.
1. Your legs hurt when you walk.
Sometimes called "window shopping pain," or claudication, one symptom of vascular disease is when your legs get sore when you are walking for a brief period of time. It is relieved when you stop or rest.
"This complaint generally points to peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, which afflicts almost 20 million people in the United States," notes Venkatesh Ramaiah, MD, a vascular surgeon with HonorHealth Vascular Group and the chief of complex vascular services at the HonorHealth Cardiovascular Center of Excellence.
If this happens to you, it means your legs are not getting enough blood, especially when you walk. Pain at rest and ulcers are advanced signs of PAD.
According to Dr. Ramaiah, this is a sign that you should see a vascular specialist to make sure the blood supply to your legs is in the normal ranges. Tests may include an ultrasound and checking the blood pressure in your legs.
2. Your legs are swollen, aching and discolored, and develop ulcers or wounds.
Diseases of the veins, also called venous diseases, are a common cause of these symptoms. If you have venous disease, you may have varicose veins, which are enlarged, ropey blood vessels on your thighs, knees and calves that may be purple or red. Spider veins may also appear due to swollen capillaries, which are smaller blood vessels.
While these complaints may seem cosmetic, sometimes they indicate a more serious underlying vascular condition.
"Deep system venous disease points to blood clots that can go to the lungs and cause an embolism," cautions Dr. Ramaiah.
If you experience these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to be evaluated.
3. You suddenly have blurred vision and tingling, numbness, and weakness of one side of your body. You may also feel confused.
Dr. Ramaiah says these symptoms can be caused by a stroke, which is a medical emergency. There are two kids of stroke. An ischemic stroke is when your brain isn’t receiving enough oxygen due to a blockage. A hemorrhagic stroke is when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.
A stroke is an emergency because it can cause brain tissue to die and can lead to permanent disability, brain damage or death.
Urgent treatment is essential if you want to prevent lasting harm, so call 9-1-1 if you or a loved one are experiencing signs of stroke. Learn about a new less invasive method to prevent strokes called TCAR.
4. You experience sudden, severe abdominal and back pain
Dr. Ramaiah explains that an aneurysm is a weakening of the arterial wall, which can become so thin that it balloons. While most aneurysms occur in the aorta, they can happen in any artery throughout the body, including in the brain, leg or heart. Aneurysms are dangerous, because if they rupture, they can cause life-threatening bleeding.
If you have a small aneurysm, you may not experience any symptoms at all.
At the HonorHealth Cardiovascular Center of Excellence, we are able to fix complicated aneurysms with minimally invasive, leading-edge treatments," says Dr. Ramaiah.
Preventing vascular problems
While some conditions are hereditary, there are many things you can do to help prevent vascular problems. They include:
- Not smoking
- Managing high blood pressure and high cholesterol
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Controlling diabetes