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Vascular dysfunction is a disorder of the vascular system characterized by poor function of the blood vessels. In patients with this condition, the structure of the blood vessels may be normal, with no obvious lesions like plaques, but the function is disrupted and the patient experiences impaired blood flow as a result. Women are especially prone to vascular dysfunction and it can lead to delays in diagnosis of conditions like myocardial ischemia, where the heart is not getting enough blood, as the patients will not experience conventional symptoms and do not appear to have any vascular problems on superficial examination.
It is possible to experience both structural and functional changes to the blood vessels, and many patients with vascular dysfunction also experience structural issues like obstructions in the arteries created by plaques. Generally, vascular dysfunction involves the cells lining the blood vessels, and can be found in vessels of various sizes. These cells don't function normally, leading to problems with the circulatory system.
Patients will experience a reduction in blood flow, making it harder to get oxygen and nutrients to outlying cells. In addition, it is harder to remove wastes when the circulation is impaired. As a result, people with vascular dysfunction can experience cell death in cells that are not getting enough blood. This may be localized in a small area associated with particular impaired vessels.
Several diagnostic tools can be used to evaluate patients with suspected vascular dysfunction. Heart function tests can be used to see if the heart appears strained and it is also possible to measure the rate of blood flow at various vessels in addition to taking blood pressure measurements. Symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, and confusion can also be important to know about, as they may reflect interference with the supply of blood to the brain. In emergency situations where vascular dysfunction is clearly contributing to an issue like a heart attack, rapid medical intervention is needed to stabilize the patient.
Patients with vascular dysfunction can experience complications like those associated with cardiovascular disease, but with a different set of symptoms. This may make it harder for care providers to accurately identify the early warning signs of vascular problems, especially in the case of older practitioners who may have received training in an era when this condition was not recognized. People with a family history of cardiovascular problems should make sure they are carefully evaluated with an eye to functional, as well as structural, changes to the blood vessels.