A person experiences vasoconstriction when they have narrowed blood vessels. When vasoconstriction occurs, blood flow slows down or becomes blocked.
It is usually a warning of a health problem that requires serious attention.
Vasoconstriction is an important process in the human body. Stops bleeding and retains heat. On a larger scale, it is a mechanism by which the body regulates and preserves blood pressure .
When the blood vessels constrict, the skin will turn pale due to reduced blood flow and the body will cool down. If vasoconstriction continues for a long time, it can cause serious side effects.
Vasoconstriction can be mild or it can be severe. There are physical and psychological conditions that can lead to vasoconstriction. It is also important to know that there are medications that can cause vasoconstriction, including cough and cold medications.
What can cause vasoconstriction or constricted blood vessels?
Now that we’ve discussed what vasoconstriction is, let’s get straight to the causes. The truth is, there are many different factors that can contribute to vasoconstriction. Vasoconstriction and blood pressure are closely related.
As the blood vessels constrict, the blood flow changes, which can lead to an increase in blood pressure. If the narrowing continues, it could lead to chronic high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke .
Caffeinated foods and drinks: Coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate can actually narrow your blood vessels. While a little caffeine usually doesn’t harm a person, too much caffeine can lead to vasoconstriction.
Salt – Sodium causes water retention and water retention increases the volume of blood in the system which has the potential to constrict the vessels. People who eat a high-salt diet are prone to vasoconstriction. Avoiding processed foods is one way to reduce sodium.
High cholesterol : Foods that contain saturated and trans fats have a negative impact on blood circulation, so it is best to select foods with healthy cholesterol if you want to avoid vasoconstriction.
Refined carbohydrates : Eating foods that raise glucose levels can cause vasoconstriction. White bread and white pasta are examples. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, can help you avoid blood vessel congestion.
Stress and Anxiety : Research shows that stress can affect blood vessels.
A sedentary lifestyle can also put people at higher risk for vasoconstriction. The same goes for substance abuse, including illegal drugs. Next, we look at medications and substances that can cause vasoconstriction.
- Alcohol (moderate consumption).
- MSG (monosodium glutamate).
- Stimulant drugs.
- Tyramine (Natural substance in food).
- Sympathomimetics (used to treat hypotension).
- Vasopressin analogs (used to treat low levels of sodium in the blood).
There may be cases where an underlying health problem is causing the vasoconstriction, including some of the health conditions listed below:
Raynaud’s disease: small narrow arteries that limit blood supply to the skin.
Buerger’s disease: swelling and inflammation of the blood vessels.
Those who suffer from migraine : severe headache, accompanied by nausea and vision problems.
Post-traumatic dystrophy: pain, swelling and vasomotor dysfunction of a limb.
Inflammatory diseases : conditions that involve severe inflammation.
When we think of vasoconstriction, we must also consider the RCVS. CRVS stands for reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome. It is a group of disorders that includes severe headaches and narrowing of the blood vessels in the brain.
Although RCVS can be reversed and many patients are known to recover within a few months, the diagnosis is often missed.
RCVS occurs when there is persistent vasoconstriction and as a result, blood flow and oxygen supply are reduced to the affected area of the body. When the constriction of the blood vessels of the brain occurs, it is known as cerebral vasoconstriction .
RCVS can lead to serious complications when it is not quickly diagnosed and treated. Stroke is a potential complication.
What are the symptoms and risk factors?
Vasoconstriction can sound scary, especially to those who have never heard of it before and who don’t know anyone who has experienced the signs and symptoms. Knowing what vasoconstriction symptoms are can help you decide whether or not you need medical attention.
Vasoconstriction can cause the following:
- Pale skin.
- Tingling sensation in the fingers and toes.
- Numbness in the extremities.
- Partial loss of vision or blurred vision.
- Elevation of blood presure.
- Loss of muscle control or paralysis of the muscles.
Depending on the severity of the vasoconstriction, slurred speech may also occur, but research suggests it is rare.
Mild vasoconstriction does not pose much of a threat, but moderate or severe vessel constriction can have risks, such as hypertension, poor heartbeat, limb amputation, erectile dysfunction, and possibly a heart attack.
Responding immediately to the signs and symptoms of vasoconstriction will reduce the chances of further illness. Treatment of vasoconstriction varies from person to person; however, the most common approaches are explained here.
Medications: There are medications that act as vasodilators to increase blood flow. They work by blocking calcium channels and inhibiting the activity of alpha-adrenoceptors, which are a class of important G protein receptors.
Exercise : Cardiovascular exercises for one hour a day can help fight vasoconstriction. Exercise can improve blood flow and help dilate blood vessels.
Avoid the cold: Being exposed to very cold can narrow your blood vessels, so it is important not to stay in the cold for too long.
Healthy diet : Eat a healthy diet, one that does not include foods that are processed, canned, or contain too much salt.
Limit alcohol and drug use : Avoid alcohol and drugs such as cocaine.
Avoid stress – the less stress the better. Avoiding stress can help prevent acute vasoconstriction.
Treat underlying diseases : When the constriction is due to another disease, it is crucial to get the proper treatment for that disease as it can only help with vasoconstriction.
Massage – Some people find that massaging the area can increase blood flow so that the vasoconstriction is reversed at least temporarily. Some people report that only a 10 minute massage is needed.
As with any condition, it is important to pay attention to your general health as well. If you are generally in good health, it will be easier to combat vasoconstriction. You should eat well-balanced meals, maintain a healthy weight, and sleep well.
Vasodilation and vasoconstriction: What’s the difference?
It’s easy to mix terms like vasoconstriction and vasodilation. While both impact blood pressure, vasoconstriction and vasodilation are two different mechanisms.
Vasoconstriction refers to the narrowing of the blood vessels, but vasodilation refers to the widening of the blood vessels. The main difference is that vasoconstriction increases resistance and decreases blood flow and vasodilation decreases resistance and increases blood flow.
Essentially, during vasoconstriction, the smooth muscles in the walls of the blood vessels contract by reducing the internal diameter of the vessel. Vasodilation relaxes the smooth muscles in the walls of blood vessels, thus increasing the internal diameter of the vessel.
Various massage techniques can be used to increase vasodilation. A sign of vasodilation is the pink color of the skin. This shows an increase in blood flow to the area.
Massage can promote the release of histamine, which acts as a neurotransmitter, increasing the permeability of blood vessels. When the permeability increases, it leads to vasodilation.
Blood pressure is a good barometer of health. It indicates how our respiratory rate, heart rate, oxygen saturation and body temperature are working.
Normal resting blood pressure for a healthy individual is 120/80 mmHg. If you have questions about your blood pressure or experience any of the signs and symptoms we have described, seek medical attention immediately.