Circulatory Disorders (Short Notes)

The circulatory system consists of the heart, lungs, arteries, capillaries and veins.

21 examples of circulatory disorders (vascular disorders) are listed and briefly explained in the following table.

Some of the 'circulatory disorders' listed below, e.g. HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, are included because they can be transmitted via contaminated blood.

This is a short version of the page about circulatory system diseases.

Many types of therapists and other health care professionals need to know about diseases and disorders of the circulatory system. Some people prefer to learn and remember details by studying definitions, causes and symptoms / effects all in one table while others might not need that much detail or prefer to read short definitions of circulatory disorders (below) first or instead.

Short Notes about Disorders of the Circulatory System

Circulatory Condition

Short description


(most common blood disorder)

The quantity of (oxygen-carrying) haemoglobin in the blood is below the normal level and/or there are fewer healthy red blood cells in the body than normal. Of the different types of anaemia, iron-deficiency anaemia is the most common - the main symptom being tiredness and lethargy.


(angina pectoris)

Chest pain typically described as sensations of pressure, heaviness, tightness, squeezing orburning coming from the heart after physical effort. Stable angina is due to narrowed coronary arteries being unable to supply the increased blood flow required for increased physical exertion. (The arteries may have been narrowed by the accumulation of atheromatous plaque, i.e. atherosclerosis.)

3 types of angina:

  1. Stable angina
    ('effort angina')
  2. Unstable angina
    ('crescendo angina')
  3. Microvascular angina
    ('angina Syndrome X') - different cause from 1. & 2.



Balloon-like bulge or blister-like swelling in the wall of an artery. Aneurysms contain blood so rupture of an aneurysm can cause a haemorrhage, i.e. bleeding into surrounding tissues.

Typical locations of aneurysms:

  • the aorta
  • arteries at the base of the brain
    (the circle of Willis)



Hardening of the arteries. (Arteriolosclerosis is the hardening of arterioles.)
Artery walls thicken, stiffen and lose elasticity, a progressive condition that typically worsens over time unless action is taken to address it.

Note: Healthy arteries are flexible and elastic.


Atherosclerosis (Atheroma)

Artery wall(s) thicken as a result of the accumulation of fatty materials forming a plaque.

Atherosclerosis is a common type of arteriosclerosis.


Arteriosclerosis vs Atherosclerosis?

Someone who has arteriosclerosis (hardened arteries) might, or might not, also have atherosclerosis (plaque in arteries).

A person who has atherosclerosis does have arteriosclerosis; atherosclerosis is a common type of arteriosclerosis.


Coronary thrombosis

A thrombus is a blood clot. Thrombosis is a condition in which blood changes from a liquid into a solid, producing a 'clot' (thrombus). In the case of coronary thrombosis, the thrombus is formed in one of the 3 major coronary arteries that supply the heart.


Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

A thrombus is a blood clot. Thrombosis is a condition in which blood changes from a liquid into a solid, producing a 'clot' (thrombus). In the case of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot forms in a deep vein in a leg - usually, but not always, in a lower-leg. Widely associated with long-distance travel (strictly non-movement for several hours) e.g. during long-haul flights.



Blood clots very slowly. Due to deficiency of either of two blood coagulation factors: Factor VIII (antihaemophilic factor), or Factor IX (Christmas factor). Possible effects incl. prolonged bleeding after any injury that caused an open wound.



A collection or accumulation of blood outside the blood vessels, which may clot forming a swelling. Mild e.g. an ecchymosis, i.e. a bruise = hematoma of the skin. However, depending on location and severity, e.g. in cases of head injury, can be v.serious, even life-threatening.



Haemorrhoids (also called 'piles') are swellings containing enlarged and swollen blood vessels in or around the rectum and anus. A pile moving down outside of the anu is a prolapse.


See also
HIV/AIDS in the News

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) attacks the immune system, reducing the person's ability to overcome infections and disease. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection - the body can no longer fight life-threatening infections. HIV is transmitted via bodily fluids, including blood products that have not been appropriately screened.


High cholesterol

Hypercholesterolaemia is the presence of excessive levels of cholesterol in the blood.

There are 2 'types' of cholesterol:

  • 'Good' high-density lipoprotein HDL, and
  • 'Bad' low-density lipoprotein LDL

Blood cholesterol levels* can be graded:

  • ideal: less than 5mmol/l
  • too high: 5 - 6.4mmol/
  • very high: 6.5 - 7.8mmol/l
  • extremely high: over 7.8mmol/l


High blood pressure (hypertension)

Blood pressure greater than for a significant period of time.

Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is symptom-less until the symptoms of its complications develop.



Commonly described as a cancer of the blood cells, the word 'leukaemia' can refer to any of a group of *malignant diseases in which bone marrow and other blood-forming organs produce increased quantities of certain types of white blood cells (leucocytes).


Low blood pressure (hypotension)

Blood pressure lower than for a significant period of time.

Also known as hypotension, can occur due to loss of blood. Mild symptoms can include feeling 'light-headed', fainting, sweating without other case, and impaired consciousness.



  • Hepatitis A (epidemic hepatitis)
  • Hepatitis B (formerly known as serum hepatitis)
  • Hepatitis C (formerly known as non-A, non-B hepatitis)
  • Hepatitis D - only occurs with or after hepatitis B infection.
  • Hepatitis E - transmitted by infected food or drinks, can cause acute hepatitis.

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. There are several types.

Causes include:

  • viruses (several types, hence the different forms of hepatitis A, B, C. D, E)
  • toxic substances or
  • immunological abnormalities.



Inflammation in the wall of a vein e.g. a segment of vein tender or painful with surrounding skin hot and red, most commonly occurs in the legs. Can be a complication of varicose veins.



Blood poisoning - which can lead to widespread destruction of tissues due to absorption of disease-causing bacteria or their toxins from the bloodstream.



  1. Mental / emotional - sense of inability to cope with the circumstances and situations of life. See also anxiety symptoms.
  2. Physical response to emotional state of anxiety incl. e.g. release into the bloodstream of certain hormones and the body's response to them.

There are two major aspects of stress (see right):

Stress can affect all the systems of the body, though in different ways. Its effects on the cardiovascular system include increasing heart rate, increasing blood flow rate, increasing blood pressure, the release of more fatty acids into the bloodstream and it has been suggested that on-going (chronic) release of the 'stress' hormone cortisol may affect where in the body fat is deposited, e.g. around the abdomen.



A blood clot in a blood vessel e.g. in an artery or a vein. (Can occur due to the composition of blood, how the blood flows, or the quality of the blood vessel wall.)



Condition in which blood changes from a liquid into a solid state, producing a 'clot' (thrombus)


Varicose veins

Veins that are distended, lengthened and tortuous. The superficial (saphenous veins) leg veins are most commonly affected, other possible locations of varicose veins include the oesophagus and the testes. Causes may be include genetic predisposition or possibly obstructed blood flow.

For related information, see also heart problems, persistent ductus arteriosus (a congenital heart disorder),
how lifestyle can affect hypertension, and heart disease risk factors.

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