Understanding the Effects of Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)

It is estimated that approximately 10 million Americans suffer from peripheral vascular disease (PVD), also referred to as peripheral artery disease (PAD). This progressive circulatory disorder involves disease in the veins, arteries and blood vessels outside of the heart. PVD/PAD includes several conditions that are associated with blood and lymphatic vessels and can be a serious indication of cardiovascular disease, as well as other health problems.

Types of PVD Conditions

There are several conditions that are linked to PVD/PAD says Dr. Gino Sedillo of CardioVascular Solutions in Bradenton, Florida. Most commonly these disorders affect the limbs, specifically the feet and legs. PVD/PAD can restrict the blood flow, stopping the distribution of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, skin and organs throughout the body. Often this is caused by a blockage that is formed within the veins from a buildup within the arteries.

The most common disorders that are associated with PVD/PAD include:

  • DVT (Deep vein thrombosis)
  • Lymphedema
  • Varicose veins
  • Chronic venous insufficiency

Symptoms and Dangers of PVD

PVD/PAD can be present without any symptoms, still this disorder has serious health risks. It is estimated that approximately half of the people with the disease do not have any symptoms. However, for others there are specific symptoms that can alert both the patient and their physician to the condition. Some symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Pain during movement of leg, calf or buttock muscles (claudication)
  • Pain during rest of leg muscles (critical limb ischemia CLI)
  • Numbness or heaviness
  • Cold or itchy feet
  • Ulcers or non-healing wounds on pressure points

These symptoms are due to the lack of circulation to the limbs, which can lead to serious problems within the limbs, up to and including amputation. Although these conditions are concerning, the real danger of PVD is the indication of possible risk for cardiovascular disease. Those with PVD are also likely to have similar disease in the arteries of the heart and brain, which can lead to stroke or heart attack.

Treating PVD/PAD

There are many different variations of PVD/PAD, making the treatment of these conditions also varied. However, the most basic treatment is to improve cardiovascular health to reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack. Patients receiving treatment for PVD will have two goals: symptom management and slowing the progression of the disease. Some of the factors that may be addressed include:

  • Diet and exercise regimen for cardiovascular disease
  • Medication therapy, including use of drug therapy for increasing blood flow
  • Controlling other health problems such as high cholesterol that can affect PVD
  • Surgical procedures, including stent placement

PVD/PAD is often diagnosed and monitored using Ultrasound or Angiogram procedures from a cardiovascular specialist. If you are concerned that you may have PVD/PAD or be at risk for the disease, contact your regular physician or schedule an appointment with a cardiologist. They can diagnose your condition and offer treatments to control symptoms while reducing the risk of stroke, heart attack and other serious disorders.