Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.
What is Ischemia?
It can affect your heart. It can affect your intestines. It can affect any part of your body. And if it does, and it's prolonged and severe enough, it can end up triggering a sequence that leads to your death. It's called ischemia, an inadequate supply of oxygenated blood to all or part of a tissue or organ as a result of an obstructed or constricted blood vessel. Ischemia itself comes from the Greek 'ischein', which means to hold back and '-emia', which refers to blood or a condition of the blood.
Let's learn about its causes, signs and symptoms.
It's important to note right from the start that ischemia is a general term. It doesn't refer to any particular organ or tissue. It can be qualified; however, to refer to a particular structure. For instance, myocardial ischemia refers to ischemia of the heart muscle. More on that later.
Regardless though, the causes of any specific form of ischemia fall into two major categories given away by the definition itself:
1. Obstructed blood vessels
2. Constricted/narrowed blood vessels
What can obstruct a blood vessel? A blood clot (thrombus), a gas bubble (air embolism), and a piece of fat (fat embolism) to name a few. What can constrict a blood vessel? Blood vessel disorders, like atherosclerosis or a blood vessel spasm (vasospasm). In atherosclerosis, fatty plaques narrow the blood vessel. In a blood vessel spasm, the blood vessel suddenly constricts all by itself, sometimes for no known reason.
And here's another important note. Our definition used the term 'oxygenated blood'. Oxygenated blood is carried to a tissue via arteries. Deoxygenated blood is carried away from the tissues via veins. So you'd logically think that an obstructed artery would be a cause of ischemia, and you'd be right. But suddenly obstructed or constricted veins can cause ischemia as well even though they don't deliver oxygenated blood to the tissue.
Why? If the outflow of blood is obstructed, congestion sets in. This means oxygenated (arterial) blood has a tougher time getting through all that congestion and into the tissue. This means ischemia sets in anyways.
Signs & Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of ischemia will vary depending on what part of the body is affected and the severity and duration of the ischemia. Let's take a few examples:
- Myocardial ischemia, ischemia affecting the heart, can cause angina (chest pain), a fast heartbeat, shoulder or arm pain, and shortness of breath among others.
- Acute mesenteric ischemia, ischemia of the intestines, can result in severe pain, nausea, vomiting, and anorexia.
- Ischemic stroke, which affects the brain, can cause numbness or weakness of the person's face, arm or leg, confusion, slurred speech, and vision loss.
- Acute limb ischemia, ischemia of an arm or leg, which may lead to pain, paralysis of the arm or leg, paleness of the limb, and a lack of a pulse in the limb.
Ischemia refers to an inadequate supply of oxygenated blood to all or part of a tissue or organ as a result of an obstructed or constricted blood vessel. Ischemia has two major causes. A blood vessel can be obstructed, such as due to a blood clot, or it can be narrowed, such as due to a vasospasm.
The signs and symptoms of ischemia vary depending on the tissue or organ that is undergoing ischemia. For example:
- Myocardial ischemia, ischemia affecting the heart, can cause angina (chest pain).
- Acute mesenteric ischemia, ischemia of the intestines, can result in severe pain, nausea, and vomiting.
- Ischemic stroke, which affects the brain, can cause numbness or weakness of the person's face, slurred speech and confusion.
- Acute limb ischemia, ischemia of an arm or leg, can lead to limb pain, paralysis, and paleness.
Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
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