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What Is Reversible Ischemia?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Reversible ischemia refers to a condition which results in a lack of blood flow to a particular organ which can be reversed through use of medications or surgery. It most often refers to hindered blood flow to the heart muscle, but it can refer to an obstruction blocking any organ in the body, including the brain. Whether or not a case of ischemia can be reversed will depend on the underlying cause. Plaque buildup in the arteries, weakened arteries, low blood pressure, blood clots, and unusual heart rhythms can all be causes of reversible ischemia.

The most common types of reversible ischemia affect the heart muscle. Some causes may affect anyone, but there are habits which make this condition more likely. These can include eating a diet high in fat and bad cholesterol and low in good cholesterol. Smoking, being overweight or obese, and a sedentary lifestyle are also risk factors. When the arteries become clogged due to plaque, blood flow may become heavily restricted. Plaque buildup is one of the most common causes of reversible ischemia, especially in the Western world where fatty foods are consumed in excess.

When ischemia is reversible, this means that doctors are able to correct the underlying causes of restricted blood flow. Treatment can include medications to reduce plaque or break down clots, as well as surgery in some instances when an artery is damaged and needs to be repaired directly. Not all cases is ischemia can be reversed. Sometimes it takes the occurrence of a serious medical problem, such as heart attack or stroke, before ischemia is discovered.

In some cases reversible ischemia can cause long-term damage and side effects even if the condition itself is properly treated. For instance, if a heart attack occurs due to lack of blood flow, a permanent weakening of the heart muscle may result. Those who suffer from ischemic stroke may suffer from permanent brain damage. For these reasons, avoiding habits and behaviors which increase the risk of ischemia is important for maintaining long-term health and vitality. It is also important to recognize the symptoms of heart attack and stroke, as well as other health problems, so that swift action can be taken if they occur.

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.
Discussion Comments
By Glasis — On Feb 09, 2014
You can have limb ischaemia at any age as well. Some contributors to this can be diabetes and smoking.

Limb ischaemia can have the symptoms of low pulse to no pulse in the limb, pale color in the limb, cold limbs, paralysis or a burning, tingling feeling. These symptoms should be communicated to your doctor immediately to avoid gangrene.

There are many tests that can be run to determine the area of problem and possible mitigation.

The treatment and prognosis is on a case by case issue. If an area remains untreated and gangrene sets in, amputation may be a result.

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