Vascular Diseases and Treatments
Tired, achy, heavy legs can be a sign of vascular disease in the legs.
Vascular health specialists treat circulatory concerns in all arteries, veins and the lymphatic system except for those in the heart or the brain (those circulatory issues are treated by cardiovascular and neurological specialists).
Risk of vascular disease increases with:
- High blood pressure
- Sedentary lifestyles
Vascular disease does not always require surgery.
Vascular surgery has broadened the range of solutions for people with vascular disease, thanks to innovations from general and cardiac surgery and interventional radiology. Yet not all cases require surgery. Some may be treated with medication only, while others will be recommended to a supervised exercise program. Our vascular care specialists work individually with each patient to develop the best plan for their needs.
Vascular Specialists treat a wide range of conditions.
Common vascular conditions include blocked carotid arteries in the neck, peripheral artery disease in the legs and feet, and venous insufficiency. Vascular treatments can help patients with these conditions prevent strokes, avoid limb amputation, and restore proper bloodflow to the extremities.
The carotid arteries travel through the neck delivering blood from the heart to the brain and head. When fatty substances (plaque) build up in these arteries, they narrow, which increases the risk of a stroke. Carotid artery surgery, called carotid endarterectomy, or a catheter-based procedure, removes buildup in the artery, restoring blood flow to the brain and reducing the risk of stroke.
When blood flow in the legs is restricted by the buildup of plaque in the arteries, such as ocurs in people with advanced stages of diabetes or peripheral arterieal disease, it can cause open leg and foot ulcers that lead to gangrene. This restriction of circulation could even lead to toe, foot or leg amputation.
Fortunately, surgical and minimally invasive endovascular procedures can help a person with severe blockage avoid having to lose a leg, foot, or toe. Using balloons and/or stents, a vascular surgeon can open the blood vessels to restore healthy circulation.
Click on the video to learn how Providence Health's limb salvage program helps diabetics and others with vascular disease avoid leg amputation.
Veins return blood to the heart from all the body’s organs. To reach the heart, blood needs to flow upward from the veins in the legs. Calf muscles and the muscles in the feet need to contract with each step to squeeze the veins and push the blood upward. To keep the blood flowing up, and not back down, the veins contain one-way valves.
Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) occurs when these valves become damaged, allowing the blood to leak backward. Valve damage may occur as the result of aging, extended sitting or standing or a combination of aging and reduced mobility. When the veins and valves are weakened to the point where it is difficult for the blood to flow upward, blood pressure in the veins stays elevated for long periods of time, leading to CVI. Failure of these valves in leg veins leads to sluggish movement of blood out of the veins, resulting in swollen legs, leg pain, and/or bulging visible varicose veins. Visit the Providence Vein Center to learn about treatment options for venous insufficiency.
Interested in vascular care at Providence Health?
Have your doctor refer you to one of our vascular specialists. Call 800.424.DOCS to find a vascular surgeon near you.