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Peripheral Vascular Disease (cont.)

What is peripheral vascular disease?

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a circulation disorder that causes narrowing, blockage, or spasms of blood vessels to parts of the body other than the brain and heart.

What causes peripheral vascular disease?

The most common cause of peripheral vascular disease is atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, a gradual process by which cholesterol plaques (material) builds up and causes inflammation in the inner walls of the arteries. This cholesterol plaque builds up over time and may block, narrow, or weaken the blood vessel walls, which results in restricted or blocked blood flow.

Other causes of peripheral vascular disease include:

  • Blood clot: A blood clot can block a blood vessel (thrombus/emboli).
  • Diabetes: Over the long-term, the high blood sugar level of persons with diabetes can damage blood vessels. This makes the blood vessels more likely to become narrowed or weakened. Plus, people with diabetes frequently also have high blood pressure and high fats in the blood, which accelerates the development of atherosclerosis.
  • Inflammation of the arteries: This condition is called arteritis and can cause narrowing or weakening of the arteries. Several autoimmune conditions can develop vasculitis, and, besides the arteries, other organ systems are also affected.
  • Infection: The inflammation and scarring caused by infection can block, narrow, or weaken blood vessels. Both salmonellosis (infection with Salmonella bacteria) and syphilis have been two infections traditionally known to infect and damage blood vessels.
  • Structural defects: Defects in the structure of a blood vessel can cause narrowing. Most of these cases are acquired at birth, and the cause remains unknown. Takayasu disease is a vascular disease affecting the upper vessels of the body and affects usually Asian females.
  • Injury: Blood vessels can be injured in an accident such as a car wreck or a bad fall.

What are the risk factors for peripheral vascular disease?

Risk factors for peripheral vascular disease (and atherosclerotic disease of all arteries throughout the body):

  • Positive family history of premature heart attacks or strokes
  • Older than 50 years
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Inactive (sedentary) lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol or LDL (the "bad cholesterol"), plus high triglycerides and low HDL (the "good cholesterol")

People who have coronary heart disease or a history of heart attack or stroke generally also have an increased frequency of having peripheral vascular disease.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/30/2016
Medical Author:

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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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