Small vessel disease

Small vessel disease is a condition in which the small arteries in the heart become narrowed. Small vessel disease causes signs and symptoms of heart disease, such as chest pain (angina).

Small vessel disease is sometimes called coronary microvascular disease or small vessel heart disease. It's usually diagnosed after a doctor checks for blockages in the main arteries of the heart but finds little or no narrowing in the large vessels, even though your symptoms persist.

Although anyone can have small vessel disease, it's more common in women and in people who have diabetes or high blood pressure. Small vessel disease is treatable but can be difficult to detect.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Small vessel disease symptoms include:

  • Chest pain, squeezing or discomfort
  • Chest pain associated with discomfort in your left arm or jaw
  • Chest pain that worsens with daily activities and at times of emotional stress
  • Neck, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unusual fatigue
  • A loss of energy
  • Trouble sleeping

If you've been treated for coronary artery disease with angioplasty and stents and your signs and symptoms haven't gone away, you may also have small vessel disease.

When to see a doctor

If you're having chest pain along with other signs and symptoms — such as shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, dizziness, or pain that radiates beyond your chest to one or both of your arms or your neck — seek emergency medical care immediately.

If you're having symptoms such as fatigue and abdominal pain, it might be difficult to tell if your signs and symptoms are due to small vessel disease, but if you have chest pain, see your doctor to find out the cause.

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