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What is Microvascular Disease?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Microvascular disease is a pathology that involves the small blood vessels in the body. This condition can manifest in a number of ways in different areas of the body. Treatment options depend on the underlying cause and how far the disease has progressed. People who develop symptoms of this condition should seek medical attention because early intervention and treatment minimizes the risk of permanent damage.

In patients with this condition, the walls in the small blood vessels are diseased or damaged. The vessels slowly become blocked, a process known as occlusion, which prevents blood from reaching the area supplied by the affected blood vessels. Over time, new blood vessels may grow in an attempt to bypass the blockage. This is the body's natural defense to microvascular disease, but it takes time and while the vessels are developing, it is possible for damage to occur.

Classically, microvascular disease causes symptoms like numbness and discoloration in the extremities. If the blockage of blood flow persists, tissue death and gangrene can set in. This also happens inside the body, with organs like the heart and brain being especially vulnerable to this condition because they need a consistent supply of blood in ample amounts. If the condition is not treated, organ failure can occur due to occlusion of vessels that normally supply blood.

These symptoms are similar to those seen with macrovascular disease, which involves the large blood vessels. However, microvascular disease does not cause the characteristic muscle pain seen when large vessels are involved. It can be diagnosed with Doppler ultrasound, a patient interview, and a physical exam. Conditions like high blood pressure, autoimmune disorder, diabetes, and certain genetic disorders can predispose people to the development of microvascular disease. In patients with these conditions, special care may be taken to monitor for early signs of circulatory problems.

Treatment involves addressing the underlying causes of the microvascular disease. Medications, diet, exercise, and other measures can be used to treat and control the cause, relieving some of the strain on the circulatory system. Patients may need to be monitored and treated for life, as the causes often cannot be cured, but only controlled and watched. It is important for people with a personal or family history of circulatory problems to be alert to any changes suggesting poor circulation, so that they can take steps before damage occurs. Prevention, through dietary changes and other steps, is also important.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon146199 — On Jan 25, 2011

I had heart attacks when I was 5o and went from climbing mountains to open heart surgery within a year. I have suffered a lot with my heart but 20 years later, am showing all the signs of micro neuropathy.

Can coronary artery disease be the cause? Found the article helpful but it seems to indicate diabetes very strongly.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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