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Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)

Facts and definition of peripheral vascular disease?

  • Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a circulation disorder that causes narrowing of blood vessels to parts of the body other than the brain and heart.
  • Causes of peripheral vascular disease include peripheral artery disease due to atherosclerosis, blood clots, diabetes, inflammation of the arteries, infection, injury, and structural defects of the blood vessels.
  • Risk factors for peripheral vascular disease include family history of premature heart attacks or strokes, age over 50 years, being overweight or obese, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high blood LDL cholesterol (the "bad cholesterol"), high blood triglycerides and low blood HDL (the "good cholesterol").
  • Symptoms of peripheral vascular disease in the legs are dull, cramping pain in one or both calves, thighs, or hips when walking, called intermittent claudication.
  • Other symptoms of peripheral vascular disease include
    • buttock pain,
    • numbness or tingling in the legs,
    • weakness, burning or aching pain in the feet or toes while resting,
    • a sore on a leg or a foot that will not heal,
    • one or both legs or feet feel cold or change color (pale, bluish, dark reddish),
    • hair loss on the legs, and
    • impotence.
  • Tests to diagnose peripheral vascular disease include the ankle/brachial index (ABI), the treadmill exercise test, angiography (a type of X-ray), ultrasonography, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging),
  • Treatment for peripheral vascular disease includes angioplasty, which is a technique for enlarging an artery that is blocked or narrowed without surgery. Stenting may be performed for arteries that are very severely blocked locally or begin to close up again after angioplasty. A procedure called atherectomy is removal of an atherosclerotic plaque.
  • Types of medications commonly used to treat peripheral vascular disease include antiplatelet agents, anticoagulants, and "clot-busters" (thrombolytics). Drugs approved to help treat intermittent claudication include pentoxifylline (Trental) and cilostazol (Pletal).
  • Lifestyle changes to treat or prevent peripheral vascular disease include quitting smoking, getting regular exercise, eating a low-fat and healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, controlling high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and if you have diabetes, keeping blood sugar optimal.
  • Complications of untreated peripheral vascular disease include permanent numbness, tingling or weakness in the legs or feet, permanent burning or aching pain in the legs or feet, gangrene  (tissue death caused by lack of blood flow which may require amputation to treat it), and a higher-than-normal risk or heart attack and stroke.
  • Other names for peripheral vascular disease include:
    • Atherosclerotic peripheral arterial disease
    • Hardening of the arteries
    • Peripheral arterial disease (PAD)
    • Peripheral vascular disease
    • Poor circulation
    • Vascular disease
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/30/2016
Medical Author:

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Peripheral Vascular Disease - Treatments

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What Does Peripheral Vascular Disease Look Like?

Peripheral vascular disease or PVD is a condition in which the blood vessels to the extremities (arms and legs) become narrowed over time. One of the risk factors for PVD is diabetes. People with diabetes and peripheral vascular disease have a reduced blood flow to the legs, which creates a risk for developing ulcers or gangrene (the death of tissue due to a lack of blood) from infections.


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Peripheral Vascular Disease »

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a nearly pandemic condition that has the potential to cause loss of limb or even loss of life.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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