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To reach the Vascular Program at Lawrence General, please call 978-946-8564.
Atherosclerosis and Peripheral Artery Disease
The coronary arteries supply blood to your heart muscle and the peripheral arteries carry blood to the tissues and organs throughout the rest of your body. Sometimes deposits of fat and other substances can build up on the inside walls of these vessels. Over time, these deposits, called plaque, narrow the vessel, gradually decreasing the flow of blood to the tissues. When the tissues in your body don’t get enough blood, you can experience a variety of symptoms.
Blockages in the coronary arteries, for example, can cause chest pain—angina—or heart attack. Blockages in the carotid arteries in your neck can reduce blood flow to the brain, causing a stroke or a mini-stroke, also called a transient ischemic attack or TIA. Narrowing of arteries in other areas of the body can result in high blood pressure, leg pain and cramping. In extreme cases tissue can die, resulting in organ or limb loss. People who have peripheral vascular disease are also at higher risk for coronary artery disease and should be monitored for heart related ischemia as well. Our doctors treat these conditions in a variety of ways.
An aneurysm is a weakening in the wall of a blood vessel that allows the vessel wall to bulge. It most often occurs in the aorta, the main blood vessel leaving the heart. Small aneurysms are a risk for plaque deposits to build up, causing vessel narrowing. If blood cells clot and collect at the aneurysm site, a clot can break off and cause trouble elsewhere in the body. Sometimes aneurysms press on organs and cause pain. And because the vessel wall becomes stretched and thin at the site of an aneurysm, there is a risk that it could burst under stress, like a balloon. Treatment for this serious condition depends on the circumstances and location of the aneurysm.
Peripheral Venous Disease
Unlike arteries, veins have valves that keep the blood flowing in one direction. If these valves do not close completely, blood can back up or pool in those vessels. This can cause varicose veins in your lower legs, which may bulge and have a blueish or purplish color. Spider veins are another result. Because of slowed circulation, people with venous disease can also experience blood clots. Other symptoms of poor venous return are swelling in the ankles or feet, and leg pain. There are several ways these conditions can be treated, often on an outpatient basis.