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Vascular Disease 101: Discovering and Treating Common Diseases of the Veins

When the body's arteries, veins and capillaries become diseased, patients can experience pain and discomfort, not to mention the possibility of stroke and heart attack.// Dennis Gable, M.D., a vascular surgeon on the medical staff at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano, provides information about three of the most common vascular diseases.

Varicose veins:
Varicose veins are large, twisted, swollen blood vessels that occur most commonly on the inside of the legs and the back of the calves. "The goal for treating varicose veins is to eliminate pain and improve blood flow back to the heart and out of the legs," Dr. Gable says. "We recommend elevating the legs, exercising daily, managing body weight, wearing compression stockings and avoiding excessive standing.

With a new technique, doctors can treat varicose veins through a laser inserted via a needle. "Only rarely do we need to remove key veins, a surgical process known as vein stripping," Dr. Gable says.

Peripheral artery disease:
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a blockage of blood vessels that often causes pain in the legs. "Patients with PAD face at least four times the risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke as those without the condition," Dr. Gable explains. "Individuals with PAD need to stop smoking; control their cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar; and lose weight if they are obese." Angioplasty and stents can help treat PAD, and surgery can help in the rare cases where it is needed.

Carotid artery disease:
Stroke occurs when the blood vessels in the neck that lead to the head and brain (called the carotid arteries) become blocked. Patients are often diagnosed after experiencing transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), or mini-strokes. "These patients need to stop smoking and maintain good blood sugar control if they have diabetes," Dr. Gable says. "Typically, we only do surgery if there is at least a 70 percent blockage and the
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