Small vessel disease is defined as the condition of the small walls of the heart. It’s where the walls of the heart’s small arteries are injured, causing them to narrow down. The narrowing down of these walls doesn’t allow your arteries to dilate appropriately.

This condition is also known as coronary microvascular heart disease and small artery disease. Since small vessel disease has almost the same symptoms as any heart disease, it can be hard to diagnose without a proper doctor’s appointment.

Aside from the small vessel disease of the heart, it also attacks the brain, which is known as Cerebral Small Vessel disease. Thus, if left untreated, small vessel disease can be alarming and pose a dangerous threat to one’s life.


The symptoms of small vessel disease are quite familiar to that of any heart problem. However, there are a few signs that set aside small vessel disease from other heart problems. It can cause chest pain that is quite similar to a heart attack.

More signs that point towards the disease are:

  • Angina is defined as chest pain or discomfort caused when an ample amount of oxygen-rich blood doesn’t reach the heart. It often feels like squeezing or pressure in your chest.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Fatigue/feeling extremely tired.
  • Nausea and dizziness.
  • Discomfort and pain in your neck, abdomen, arm, and back.
  • Profuse sweating and fainting episodes.

These symptoms are further visible when you’re either stressed or active. If your symptoms seem to deteriorate or pain travels from your chest to your arms and neck as time passes, it would be better to consult with your doctor.

What Are The Causes?

Small vessel disease happens when the walls of the small vessels in your heart are affected. This further damages their ability to dilate properly.

Many people tend to confuse small vessel disease with coronary heart disease (CAD). Even though both conditions imitate the exact causes, there is a slight difference. CAD attacks the colossal vessels of your heart.

Nevertheless, the causes of small vessel disease of the heart are:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Arteries that have already been damaged
  • Diabetes
  • Tobacco intake
  • History of heart diseases
  • Unhealthy diet

Doctors have studied that women are at a greater risk of developing the small vessel disease than men. It is also noted that most of these causes can be avoided if one makes better lifestyle choices such as sleeping on time, taking care of your hygiene, and working out a little. 

If this disease isn’t treated, the small vessel disease can cause your heart to pump harder. This can further trigger heart failure, heart attack, and death in some severe cases.

How To Diagnose Small Vessel Disease?

Small vessel disease is diagnosed pretty much the same way other heart conditions are diagnosed. Your doctor will most likely evaluate your medical records, question your family history and go through the type and degree of symptoms you are going through.

These tests could be either one of the following stated:

  • CT scan
  • Cardiac MRI
  • Electrocardiogram

The bottom line is that if your symptoms don’t seem to get any better or you are constantly feeling an amplified degree of pain in your chest, arms, or back, then seek immediate medical help. 

Prevention of Small Vessel Disease

Before we discuss the treatment of small vessel disease, it is equally important to know some prevention tips. Remember, prevention is better than cure. Thus we must always be safe rather than sorry.

However, we will now look at ways to defend ourselves against diseases like the small vessel that attacks. Though there isn’t a proper prevention regimen for this disease, some changes can help.

  • Quit smoking and using other products that have tobacco in them.
  • Control your blood pressure by taking medications prescribed by your doctor.
  • Lose weight if you are obese. Even if you are not overweight, exercise regularly to maintain a healthy figure and keep the blood flowing at a reasonable speed.
  • Maintain a healthy diet plan. Choose foods such as lean meat, low-fat dairy products, and rich in whole grains. Limit your intake when it comes to sugar and salt.
  • Manage your cholesterol levels by talking to your doctor. That will help protect your cardiovascular health too.
  • Try to reduce your stress levels by becoming more organized and re-evaluating your priorities in life.

Once you start implementing these pointers in your daily life, you will notice a visible change in your health overall and feel active and refreshed. 



doctors treating heart

As for the beginner level treatment, your doctor might recommend medicines to relieve chest pain, treat the risk factors and control the symptoms of the disease. In addition, these medicines will aid in improving your blood flow and lower the potential risk of a heart attack.

Medication for the small vessel disease might include:

  • Beta-Blockers: These drugs lower the heart rate and decrease the patient’s blood pressure.
  • Nitroglycerin: Nitroglycerin patches, tablets, and sprays can help relieve chest pain by soothing the coronary arteries and enhancing your blood flow.
  • Statins: This medication fights the bad cholesterol that damages the arteries and stops the arteries from narrowing.
  • Aspirin: Aspirin can aid in limiting inflammation and avoiding blood clots as well.
  • ACE inhibitors and ARBs: These drugs, known as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, help open up the blood vessels and decrease blood pressure. This, in turn, helps the heart pump blood efficiently.
  • Calcium Chain Blockers: These medications help control high blood pressure and coronary artery spasms.

Summing Up

It is mindful to remember that small vessel disease affects your heart in quite detrimental ways. You may be at a greater risk of more complex heart conditions. Therefore, you must catch on to the symptoms early on.

Observing the prevention tips mentioned in the article will keep these diseases at bay and refine your health overall. It is safe to say that unorganized and unhealthy people are more vulnerable to the disease.