Vascular spasm

A vascular spasm is a sudden, brief tightening of a blood vessel. Vascular spasms can temporarily reduce blood flow to tissues supplied by that vessel.


The most common symptom is pain. Other symptoms are caused by lack of proper circulation and vary depending on the specific organ affected:

  • When the spasm affects circulation in a limb, there may be pallor and a sensation of cold in that arm or leg. Limb function and movement will be impaired.  
  • When the spasm affects circulation in the heart, there may be symptoms similar to a heart attack and irregular heartbeats.

Signs and tests

These vary depending on the affected organ.

Symptoms can sometimes be relieved by the use of medications that help relax the blood vessels.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 5, 2012
by David A. Scott, M.D.

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