Vascular surgery is the surgical subspecialty that deals with problems with arteries and veins. It covers almost every part of the body as there are arteries and veins everywhere. However, vascular surgeons do not deal with arteries or veins within the brain (neurosurgery), heart (cardiothoracic surgery) or eyes (ophthalmology). Vascular specialists are surgeons specially trained in surgical, endovascular and medical management of both arterial and venous conditions.
In the body the blood is pumped from the heart to every part of the body through arteries. Arteries carry oxygen rich blood to the tissues which is essential to their survival. Disruption of this vital pipeline through blockages or weakening is mainly caused by atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Atherosclerosis is the process where there is damage to the arterial blood vessels over decades. The damage causes the arteries to become blocked or weak and dilate up in size. It is accelerated in some patients due to genetics, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
If the artery becomes narrowed or blocked then the organ that artery supplies becomes starved of oxygen (ischaemic). This is called different things depending on the organ is affects. For example, the blood supply to the brain is affected then it leads to a stroke. If the blood supply to heart is affected then is called angina or heart attack (MI). In some cases damaged blood vessels can dilate under the pressure instead of narrowing. If the blood vessel becomes 2 to 3 times its original size, it is referred to as an aneurysm. Aneurysms can spontaneously rupture and cause serious bleeding.
Veins carry the oxygen poor blood back from the tissues to the lungs and heart to be pumped around again. Unlike the arteries, they are low pressure system which relies on one way valve system to bring the blood back to the heart and lungs. Veins are usually larger than arteries, and are thin walled. They do not undergo atherosclerosis like arteries. The main problems they cause are clots (thrombosis / DVT) or reflux from faulty valves (varicose veins).