What You Need to Know About Peripheral Vascular Disease
Peripheral Vascular Disease, or PVD, is a vascular condition where the blood
vessels outside of the brain and heart restrict and narrow, decreasing blood flow and
increasing the risk of blockage and blood vessel spasms. Learn more about this
condition, risk factors and treatment options for PVD.
Types of PVD
PVD is most commonly caused by atherosclerosis, hardening and narrowing of the artery. Other causes include blood clots, inflammation or infection of the arteries. There are two
types: functional and organic PVD. Functional PVD occurs when the arteries narrow
in response to external sources like stress, colder temperatures or drugs. Organic
PVD occurs due to a buildup of plaque. This can happen due to smoking, high
cholesterol or blood pressure, and diabetes.
Those with the aforementioned vascular conditions have an increased risk for PVD.
Other risk factors include ongoing issues with cholesterol, blood pressure,
cerebrovascular disease, and heart or kidney disease. A family history of these
issues can also play a role. The risk for PVD increases after age 50. Some lifestyle
choices attribute to PVD risk, including a poor diet, smoking, lack of exercise and
The most common symptoms of PVD are felt in the legs, although they can occur in
the feet and arms as well. Numbness, tingling, cramping or aching in the legs and
buttocks could be a sign of PVD. Other symptoms include:
● Sores on the leg that do not heal
●Legs/feet becoming cold
● Change in the affected area’s complexion such as pale, blue, or dark red
● Signs of infection such as chills, fever or weakness
● Loss of leg hair
It is important to note that up to 40% of patients with PVD do not experience
symptoms, so it is vital to ask your provider about PVD during routine exams.
Diagnosis & Treatment
PVD is diagnosed through one of many medical scans. One of the most common,
the Ankle/brachial index (ABI) test, compares the blood pressure in your arm to the
blood pressure in your leg. This may be tested before or after exercise to detect
abnormalities in blood flow.
When surgical intervention is needed, patients have a variety of options depending
on their condition. Angioplasty can help inflate a narrowed artery. During surgery, a
tiny balloon is inserted into the artery and then enlarged. This pushes artery walls
and plaque outward, allowing room for more blood flow. Once enlarged, the surgeon
deflates the balloon and removes it from the body.
Stenting is also a common technique, in which a metal mesh sleeve known as a
stent is predominately inserted to enlarge a blocked artery. This surgery can be done
during or after angioplasty.
Finally, atherectomy is when a surgeon removes plaque within an artery.
medicine used to regulate blood pressure, blood sugar levels, or treat cholesterol.
This can help slow the progression of the disease depending on its underlying
cause. Healthy lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, are also recommended
to treat PVD.
With the right lifestyle changes and treatment, you can manage your vascular
disease. An MSA surgeon can help you control the symptoms of PVD with the right
treatment. Contact MSA’s vascular surgery division to learn more about your options.