Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a slow and progressive circulation disorder. Narrowing, blockage, or spasms in a blood vessel can cause PVD.
PVD may affect any blood vessel outside of the heart including the arteries, veins, or lymphatic vessels. Organs supplied by these vessels, such as the brain, and legs, may not get enough blood flow for proper function. However, the legs and feet are most commonly affected.
Peripheral vascular disease is also called peripheral arterial disease.
The most common cause of PVD is atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque inside the artery wall. Plaque reduces the amount of blood flow to the limbs. It also decreases the oxygen and nutrients available to the tissue. Blood clots may form on the artery walls, further decreasing the inner size of the blood vessel and block off major arteries.
Other causes of PVD may include:
People with coronary artery disease (CAD) often also have PVD.
A risk factor increases your chance of developing a disease. Some can be changed, others cannot. Risk factors that you can’t change:
Risk factors that may be changed or treated include:
Those who smoke or have diabetes have the highest risk of complications from PVD because these risk factors also cause impaired blood flow.
About half the people diagnosed with PVD are symptom free. For those with symptoms, the most common first symptom is painful leg cramping that occurs with exercise and is relieved by rest (intermittent claudication). During rest, the muscles need less blood flow, so the pain disappears. It may occur in one or both legs depending on the location of the clogged or narrowed artery.
Other symptoms of PVD may include:
The symptoms of PVD may look like other conditions. See your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Along with a complete medical history and physical exam, other tests may include:
The main goals for treatment of PVD are to control the symptoms and halt the progression of the disease to lower the risk for heart attack, stroke, and other complications.
Treatment may include:
An angiogram may be done before angioplasty and vascular surgery.
Complications of PVD most often occur because of decreased or absent blood flow. Such complications may include:
Following an aggressive treatment plan for PVD can help prevent complications.
To prevent PVD, take steps to manage the risk factors. A prevention program for PVD may include:
To prevent or lessen the progress of PVD, your doctor may recommend a prevention plan.
If your symptoms get worse or you get new symptoms, let your healthcare provider know.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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