Vascular diseases are conditions that affect the blood vessels — arteries and veins — that carry blood throughout the body. Vascular disease affecting the arteries is called arterial disease; those vascular conditions affecting veins are called venous diseases. Although both are vascular diseases, they are very different.
Arterial disease is most often caused by atherosclerosis, which is a hardening of the artery caused by a build-up of fatty deposits (plaque) on the inner lining of the arteries. As the build-up progresses beyond a certain point, it restricts the flow of blood. Cardiovascular disease, probably the most familiar form of vascular disease, describes the narrowing or blockage of arteries in the immediate vicinity of the heart. Other forms of (vascular) arterial disease affect the flow of blood through arteries farther away from the heart — the arteries, for example, which carry blood through the torso, to the arms and legs, the brain, and kidneys.
The hidden danger in some forms of arterial vascular disease lies in the fact that they may not have obvious signs or symptoms. And, because vascular diseases in general may be less familiar and not as well understood by many people, some forms of it are more likely to go unrecognized or undiagnosed for longer periods. Therefore, many people who have arterial vascular disease are unaware of its dangers, which could result in severe complications or death.
Venous vascular disease typically affects veins in the legs. Its causes and treatment differ widely from arterial disease.