What is Vasospasm: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis

What is Vasospasm?

Vasospasm is medical condition where the arteries in our body tend to contract gradually, thereby preventing the flow of blood at the normal rate. This condition can affect arteries in any part of our body. When it affects the arteries of brain, it is termed as cerebral vasospasm. This type of vasospasm is usually associated with subarachnoid hemorrhage occurring due to rupturing of cerebral aneurysm.

What is Vasospasm?

When only the coronary arteries suffer contraction, it is termed as coronary artery vasospasm.

Causes and Risk Factors of Vasospasm

The chances of developing cerebral vasospasm can be significantly higher in case of an individual who has previously suffered from a hemorrhagic stroke. Similarly, the chances of developing coronary artery vasospasms are higher in case of an individual suffering from atherosclerosis. Raynaud’s Phenomenon in a person can also make you more prone to vasospasms affecting fingers and toes.

Signs & Symptoms of Vasospasm

The signs and symptoms of vasospasm can differ on the basis of the part of the body that is affected. Some common symptoms of vasospasm are as follows:

  • Stiffness in neck and fever are a common symptom of vasospasm
  • Unable to speak fluently
  • Confusion

In case of cerebral vasospasm, a person can experience stroke-like symptoms. It includes:

  • Lacking physical strength in one side of the body especially in legs, arms and face
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty is speaking
  • Experiencing problems with vision
  • Unable to walk properly
  • Unable to co-ordinate body parts together
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Feeling severe headache without any reason

If this condition affects legs and arms, the following symptoms are observed:

  • Feeling severe pain in the area affected by vasospasm
  • The appearance of the toe and fingers of the legs turning to blue or purple
  • In case of coronary artery, chest pain is one of the most common symptoms. The feeling of pain can be compared to the feeling of tightness, crushing, pressure or squeezing.

Diagnosis of Vasospasm

The first step towards diagnosing any type of vasospasm is complete physical examination of the body. The doctor would also want to have a look at your medical history to identify any possible risk factors. More severe cases of vasospasm may require advanced tools and tests such as computed tomography (CT) angiography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) etc. The primary aim of such tests is to identify the contractions in the arteries and reduced flow of blood. There are some more tests including transcranial Doppler (TCD) ultrasound and angiogram that can be used to identify obstructions in normal flow of blood. Electrocardiogram (ECG) is a good option for diagnosing coronary artery vasospasm.

Treatment for Vasospasm

There are various treatment options for vasospasm. The choice of the best option depends on the severity of the problem and the part of the body affected by vasospasm. In case a person has experienced minor symptoms of vasospasm in the past, the prime focus of the treatment is to avoid the occurrence of vascular constriction. Positive changes in lifestyle such as quitting smoking are helpful in treatment.

In case of severe coronary artery vasospasm, the prime focus of the treatment is to minimize the risk of heart attack or pain in chest. The treatment of this condition involves medications including long-acting nitrates, nitroglycerin, beta-blockers or calcium channel-blockers.

For the treatment of vasospasms resulting due to bleeding in skull, the first aim of the treatment is to manage bleeding. It can be controlled by treatment options such as neurosurgery and interventional radiology. Factors such as reasons that may have caused this condition and the severity of the condition also determines the choice of the best treatment option. If a person under treatment has experienced a stroke in the past, doctors also look for stroke prevention and management.

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