Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)
Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a disease characterized by poor circulation. It can result in poor blood circulation to your arms, legs, and internal organs such as your stomach or kidneys. However, it most commonly affects a person’s lower legs and feet. PVD is a condition that will worsen over time without treatment or necessary life changes. Without proper treatment, PVD can lead to acute limb ischemia. This is when an arm or leg suddenly has trouble getting enough blood. This is a medical emergency, and you should seek help right away.
What are the causes of PVD?
The most common cause of PVD is plaque buildup of fatty material inside your arteries. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. It increases the risk of a small amount of plaque breaking off the wall of a blood vessel and becoming lodged in a smaller artery. Blocking blood flow to your limbs may cause acute limb ischemia.
Other common causes of PVD include:
- Blood clots that come from inside of blood vessels.
- Injuries to blood vessels.
- Diseases that cause inflammation of the blood vessels or cause blood vessel spasms.
- Health behaviors and health history that increase your risk of developing PVD
Who is at risk for PVD?
Different risk factors increase your chances of developing PVD. Some can be changed, and some cannot.
The risk factors that cannot be changed include:
- Age (especially above 50 Years old).
- History of Heart Disease
- Male gender
- Postmenopausal woman
- Family history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and PVD.
Risk factors that can be treated or changed include:
- Coronary Artery Disease
- high Cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Sedentary lifestyle or lack of exercise
- Smoking or use of tobacco products
“Those who smoke or have diabetes have the highest risk of complications from PVD because these risk factors also cause impaired blood flow.” (J. Hopkins, 2021)
What are the signs and symptoms?
Symptoms can vary from person to person, and they are dependent on which part of your body is affected. Some common symptoms include:
- Cramps in your lower legs.
- Pain and weakness in your legs while active. Usually resolves while at rest.
- Leg numbness, tingling, or weakness.
- Coldness in a leg or foot, especially when compared to the other leg.
- Skin or hair changes including hair loss, shiny skin, pale or bluish skin, and thick toenails on the affected limb.
- In males, erectile dysfunction is possible.
How to improve your health and minimize the risk of PVD.
Treatment of PVD depends on the cause of your condition and how severe your symptoms are. It also depends on your age. Underlying chronic conditions need to be well controlled. Your primary care provider can help you establish a plan of care to control your chronic conditions putting you at risk. These include Diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. You can help improve your health by making some minor lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle changes, such as:
- Quitting smoking.
- exercising regularly or being more active.
- Following a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet.
- Staying compliant with your primary care provider’s advice and medication treatment.
- Take your blood thinners, medicines to improve blood flow, and medicines to reduce your blood cholesterol levels as prescribed by your physician.
- Take diligent care of your feet, wear comfortable shoes that fit well, and check your feet often for any cuts and sores.
- Keep all follow-up appointments with your health care provider. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.
Should you call your doctor?
Contact your health care provider if you’re experiencing symptoms such as:
- Cramps on your legs while walking.
- Leg pain when you are at rest.
- Coldness in a leg or foot
- Skin changes.
- Experience difficulties keeping an erection or erectile dysfunction.
- Have cuts or sores on your feet that are not healing.
Get Help Right away if:
- Your arm or leg turns cold, numb, or blue.
- Your arm or legs become red, warm, swollen, painful, or numb.
- You have chest pain or trouble breathing.
- You have sudden weakness in your face, arms, or legs.
- You become confused or lose the ability to speak.
- You suddenly experience a bad headache or loss of vision.
- Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD) is a condition that affects your blood flow and is a disease of the blood vessels.
- PVD may cause different symptoms depending on what part of your body is not getting enough blood.
- Treatment for PVD depends on the cause of your condition and how severe your symptoms are.
As always! We are here to help. At NEHH we strive to provide education and make information readily available. This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your primary care provider.
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Peripheral vascular disease. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved November 29, 2021, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/peripheral-vascular-disease.