The Road to Vascular Health:
Answers to 5 questions that help you spot vascular disease
When you’re taking a road trip, it’s great when highway traffic is light and cars are zipping along. The last thing you want is an accident clogging up the fun.
So, imagine that the veins and arteries of your vascular system are your body’s network of highways, circulating blood to muscles and tissues. A buildup or clot that causes an obstruction can slow you down, with dire consequences. Pain, stroke, and aneurysms can steal your mobility and your life.
Good vascular health keeps the blood highways clear and gets you back in action, but it’s up to you to take the wheel. Vascular screenings offer painless, noninvasive, and affordable looks under the hood that help you take control of vascular disease and get your life back.
Here, Matthew Startzel, RVT, a registered vascular technologist on the Maryland Vascular Specialists team, answers your top 5 questions about vascular disease and the value of screenings.
What is the vascular system?
You’ve heard of the cardiovascular system, the complex and intricate network that drives blood to the heart and throughout the body. Take away “cardio,” and you have the vascular system of arteries and veins. While the arteries in your neck, arms, abdomen, and legs do the pumping, the veins use a series of valves to keep the blood moving.
What could possibly go wrong? A lot, actually. The onset of vascular disease stops the veins and arteries from doing their job. Your muscles and tissues don’t get the nutrients and oxygen they need, and the consequences start to compound.
What is vascular disease?
Vascular disease can take several forms. They include:
- Carotid artery disease: The pulse beating in your neck is a sign of the carotid arteries pumping blood. Fatty deposits can clog those arteries and narrow the passageway that allows your blood to travel, putting you at higher risk of blood clots and stroke.
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm: Near your bellybutton, the abdominal aorta – which is a type of artery — can weaken, causing the wall to bulge. When it ruptures, that’s called an aneurysm. Aneurysms can be silent killers. You might not know you have an abdominal aortic aneurysm, but according to the Centers for Disease Control, 80 percent of ruptured aortic aneurysms result in death.
- Peripheral artery disease: PAD, as it’s known, is so common that more than 18 million people in the U.S. have symptoms. With PAD, plaque building up in the arteries blocks blood flow to the legs and feet. PAD can cause debilitating pain and lead to infection, ulcers, gangrene, and even amputation.
What are my risk factors for vascular disease?
One or more of these factors can contribute to vascular disease and its plaque buildup or weakening of your arterial walls:
- Family history: Vascular disease can be passed down genetically. Sadly, if a parent had an aneurysm, there’s a good chance that you will, too.
- High blood pressure.
- High cholesterol.
What are the symptoms of vascular disease?
Vascular disease can be symptom-free, but certain types of leg pain can signal a problem:
- Sudden leg cramps when walking: This could indicate blockages in the leg that prevent the blood from flowing down. The place where symptoms appear, from the calf and thigh up to the buttocks, can point screeners in the direction of the blockage.
- Inability to walk uphill: Maybe you can walk effortlessly on flat surfaces but suddenly struggle to go uphill. That’s because your muscles want more fuel than your vascular system can provide.
- Late-day swelling: If your ankles are normal when you wake up in the morning but start to swell as the day goes on, blood might be pooling in your leg, unable to travel upward.
Why should I get vascular screenings from a specialist?
Anyone can be screened for vascular disease. It’s a proactive, preventive, and affordable approach that helps stop the ravages of vascular disease before they start. Screenings are quick, noninvasive, and pain-free.
You can get up to three vascular screenings, designed separately to check for carotid artery disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm, and peripheral artery disease. If they show that your vascular system is clear, you have the priceless gift of peace of mind. If they uncover signs of vascular disease, you’re in a position to regain your vascular health and prevent future complications.
Screenings from a vascular specialist put you in the hands of experts. In fact, many family doctors refer their patients to Maryland Vascular Specialists because they trust that comprehensive screenings from highly trained professionals can find burgeoning problems before they get worse.
With its fellowship-trained and board-certified vascular physicians, Maryland Vascular Specialists has the medical expertise and collaborative framework to address the full spectrum of vascular needs. From preventive monitoring and targeted medications for early-stage conditions, to outpatient and surgical care for more complex cases, Maryland Vascular Specialists can customize treatment plans to your unique needs.
Schedule your screenings today
You don’t have to put up with the pain or worry of vascular disease. Better still, you don’t need a doctor’s referral to schedule a screening from Maryland Vascular Specialists. With convenient locations throughout Maryland and Pennsylvania, it’s easy to find the high-quality, compassionate care of Maryland Vascular Specialists near you. Visit mvsdoctors.com or call (844) 687-6334 to schedule your screenings, and get back on the road to vascular health.