Ischemia is a condition, wherein there is inadequate flow of blood to an area in the body. Since the arteries supply vital nutrients and oxygen throughout the body, ischemia can cause damage to the tissue or organ which gets insufficient blood supply.
Following are the causes of this condition:
- Blood clot
- Inflammation of blood vessels (Vasculitis)
- Plaque buildup in arteries (Atherosclerosis)
- Narrowing or blockage of blood vessels carrying oxygen to the heart (Coronary artery disease)
- Narrowing or blockage of blood vessels carrying oxygen from the heart (Peripheral artery disease)
Ischemia can be of various types, and is usually named after the affected area.
This condition occurs when the blood flow to the heart is decreased due to partial or full blockage of a coronary artery. This decrease in blood flow causes less oxygen supply to the heart, thereby damaging the heart muscles. When the heart muscles are damaged, it lowers the capacity of the heart to function normally. A sudden and severe blockage of a coronary artery may lead to a myocardial infarction or heart attack. In most cases, people do not observe any symptoms.
This is called silent ischemia. The symptoms exhibited are as follows:
- Chest pain on the left side of the body
- Jaw, neck pain
- Shoulder, arm pain
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Irregular pulse
- Sweaty palms
- Clammy skin
This condition occurs when there is insufficient blood supply to the brain. This is the main reason that causes strokes. A person with a blood clot in the brain is more prone to develop this condition. The symptoms include:
- Loss of movement of any body area
- Weakness in arms or legs
- Weakness in one side of the body
- Decreased sensation and vision
- Swallowing difficulties
- Lack of control over the bladder
- Loss of coordination, memory
Insufficient blood supply to the brain for a prolonged period may lead to unconsciousness, and in severe cases brain death. Therefore, this condition needs to be treated within 4 hours with alteplase (which is a tissue plasminogen activator) to reduce permanent damage to the brain.
Also known as visceral or mesenteric ischemia, this condition occurs when the intestines receive inadequate blood supply. It can affect the small intestine, large intestine, and in some cases both. This is a very serious condition that can lead to severe pain and loss of intestinal function. There are basically three main blood vessels that supply blood to the abdominal region.
These include celiac artery, superior mesenteric artery, and inferior mesenteric artery. When two or all three of the arteries are blocked, it leads to intestinal ischemia. The blockage may occur due to atherosclerosis, blood clots, or aneurysms in the blood vessels. The symptoms are divided into two: acute symptoms that occur suddenly, and chronic symptoms that occur over time.
- Sudden severe abdominal pain, especially in one area of the abdomen
- Bloody stools
- Abdominal distention
- Urgent bowel movement
- Pain in abdomen after meals
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Loss of body weight as the person fears to eat due to pain
The treatment of this condition includes surgery to remove the blockage, or repair or remove the damaged intestinal part.
It is very important to discuss any of the symptoms as early as possible with your doctor, especially if you have a history of ischemic heart disease. Early medical intervention will help in prevention of infarction and permanent damage to your organs. In some cases, angioplasty is carried out to help restore the blood flow. Anticoagulants may be given if one is experiencing blood-clotting problems. A healthy lifestyle helps avoid plaque buildup in the arteries, and thereby prevent the ill effects of insufficient blood supply to any part of the body.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.