What is small vessel disease?
Small vessel disease, which is also called coronary microvascular disease, is a disease that affects the small arteries in the heart. These small arteries normally expand to provide extra blood to your heart when you are exercising or exerting yourself. They contract when you are at rest. Small vessel disease is caused by a narrowing of these tiny arteries. This narrowing can be caused by spasms in the artery, damage to the artery walls or a build-up of a fatty substance (called plaque) in the artery.
Small vessel disease is not the same as coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease affects the large arteries in the heart. These large arteries are responsible for carrying oxygen-rich blood to your heart all the time. When these arteries are blocked or narrowed, your heart muscle doesn't get the blood and oxygen it needs to work properly. This can cause a heart attack.
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Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff