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Varicose Veins

Blood Vessel Symptoms


Healthgrades Editorial Staff

What are the signs of blood vessel problems?

Blood vessel symptoms are common when there is an alteration to normal blood flow in an artery or vein. This includes underlying blood vessel conditions, such as atherosclerosis or an aneurysm. In atherosclerosis, blood vessel symptoms result when plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to the head, organs and limbs. Most commonly, people develop atherosclerosis as a result of diabetes, genetic risk factors, high blood pressure, a high-fat diet, obesity, high blood cholesterol levels, and smoking.

The signs and symptoms of atherosclerosis are not usually apparent until blood flow becomes significantly restricted. The course of the disease varies among individuals. Some people with atherosclerosis have no symptoms at all, while others may have severe hypertension, aneurysm, blood clots, and pain caused by coronary or peripheral artery disease.

An aneurysm is an abnormal widening or ballooning of an artery due to weakness in the wall of the blood vessel. Aneurysms are dangerous because they may burst, spilling blood into the area surrounding the blood vessel. The disease can occur in the aorta, the artery that leads from the heart to the abdomen, in a blood vessel in the brain, or in a peripheral blood vessel.

The signs and symptoms of an aneurysm depend on its location. The disease course varies among individuals. Some people with an aneurysm have no symptoms at all, but if the aneurysm ruptures, internal bleeding occurs, potentially causing pain, low blood pressure, a rapid heartbeat, and lightheadedness. If the aneurysm occurs near the surface of the skin, pain and swelling with a throbbing mass are often felt.

Blood vessel symptoms can be a sign of a serious condition. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have symptoms such as severe chest pain or pressure, rapid heart rate, the worst headache of your life, pain that radiates from the chest, shoulder, or arm, loss of consciousness for even a moment, or difficulty breathing.

Seek prompt medical care if your blood vessel symptoms are persistent or cause you concern.

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Oct 4, 2016

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Medical References

  1. Atherosclerosis. American Heart Association.
  2. Peripheral artery disease. American Heart Association.
  3. What is peripheral arterial disease? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Diseases and Conditions Index.
  4. Olin JW, Sealove BA. Peripheral artery disease: current insight into the disease and its diagnosis and management. Mayo Clin Proc 2010; 85:678.
  5. Eraso LH, Fukaya E, Mohler ER 3rd, et al. Peripheral arterial disease, prevalence and cumulative risk factor profile analysis. Eur J Prev Cardiol 2012.

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