Small Vessel Disease

Small vessel disease (SVD), also called coronary microvascular disease or small artery disease, is a condition in which the walls of the small arteries in the heart (the tiny branches off the larger coronary arteries), are damaged and don’t dilate properly. Your small vessels need to expand to provide oxygen-rich blood to your heart. When they’re damaged, the blood flow to your heart decreases. If left untreated, small vessel disease will force your heart to work harder to pump blood to your body. This could trigger coronary artery spasms, a heart attack, heart failure, or even death.

Causes of Small Vessel Disease

Small vessel disease is caused by several factors. However, certain traits, conditions or habits may raise your risk for the disease. These are known as risk factors and include:

Non-modifiable risk factors: These factors are irreversible and cannot be changed. The more of these risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing small vessel disease:

  • Family history/Genetics
  • Female gender

Modifiable risk factors: These factors can be modified, treated or controlled through medications or lifestyle changes.

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Little to no physical activity
  • Obesity or having a body mass index “BMI” of 30 or greater
  • Extreme emotional stress
  • Diabetes (when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high).

Symptoms of Small Vessel Disease

Small vessel disease symptoms often mimic those of a heart attack. Some of the symptoms include the following:

  • Chest pain, fullness, discomfort or pressure
  • Discomfort or pain in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Lightheadedness/Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia) of over 100 beats per minute
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Sweating

Diagnosis of Small Vessel Disease

Diagnosing small vessel disease can be difficult. Your doctor will have to evaluate your medical history, family history, and symptoms. After doing so, your doctor will perform one or more of the following:

Diagnostic tests and procedures

Treatment of Small Vessel Disease

The treatment for small vessel disease involves medications to control the narrowing of your small blood vessels that could lead to a heart attack and to relieve pain. Treatment options include:

Lifestyle changes

Medications

  • Aspirin will treat pain, inflammation, and reduce risk of a heart attack.
  • Vasodilators will help the muscle in the walls of the blood vessels to relax, allowing the vessel to dilate.
  • ACE inhibitors will help blood vessels relax and open up, leading to a lower blood pressure.
  • Beta blockers will help reduce your blood pressure.



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