The Difference Between Venous and Arterial Diseases
As a leading cardiovascular practice in South Jersey, The Heart House, with our 20+ cardiovascular specialists, is uniquely able to handle even the most challenging cardiovascular conditions. For many, a sedentary lifestyle, prior surgeries, lifestyle risk factors, and congenital issues create problems in the blood vessels around the body, especially in the extremities – most often in the legs. But not all blood vessel conditions are the same. The differences between arterial diseases – those in the arteries – and venous – those of the veins- are significant.
Vein issues come in many shapes and sizes and can be very mild like spider veins, more complex, like varicose veins, or even potentially deadly in Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). The veins are the low-pressure blood vessels that bring blood back from the extremities to the heart, which is re-oxygenated and pumped through the body once again. Vein conditions can usually be avoided or minimized with practical lifestyle changes, including sitting less, exercising more, quitting smoking, and being aware of the situations that may cause DVT, like traveling on an airplane or having surgery.
On the other hand, diseases of the arteries are generally severe and progressive. One of the most common arterial diseases is Peripheral Artery Disease, or PAD, which represents the narrowing of the blood vessel opening due to plaque accumulation in the arteries. This is usually caused by poor lifestyle choices, including a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, and more. PAD is particularly problematic because as the artery narrows, blood cannot reach the extremities, which can cause dysfunction in the muscles, bones, and nerves.
How Can I Tell the Difference?
Ultimately, rather than trying to diagnose what condition you may have, it is essential to implement a prevention plan early in life. If you can increase your activity level, do so as soon as possible, before you feel the effects of blood vessel diseases. That said, it’s never too late. This is an excellent preventative measure if you can improve your diet, whether it be eating healthier foods or drinking more water. Stopping alcohol and quitting smoking will confer tremendous benefits very quickly. If you are already experiencing leg pain, swelling, joint pain, or anything else that seems irregular, it’s essential that you visit your primary care physician, who will likely refer you to an experienced cardiologist for a diagnosis. If you also have a history of heart disease, this visit is even more critical, and an appointment with your cardiologist is highly recommended. Of course, if you ever have a medical emergency, dial 911 immediately.
Ultimately, we all can change our health circumstances, even if we are experiencing adverse health effects because of cardiovascular, arterial, or venous disease. Don’t simply assume that the aches and pains in your legs are due to age. These must be brought up with your healthcare professional to start treating the condition at its earliest signs.