Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a circulatory problem that occurs in blood vessels outside the heart and brain. While it can occur in any blood vessel, it’s most common in the legs and in vessels carrying blood to the arms, kidneys, or stomach.
PVD may be caused by muscle spasms, inflammation, or tissue damage in the veins or arteries. However, it’s often caused by narrowing of the blood vessels due to atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of cholesterol and plaque that blocks blood flow. Peripheral artery disease — atherosclerosis in the legs and arms — is a type of PVD.
It’s estimated that about half of those with PVD don’t experience symptoms at the start, but when they do, the most common symptom is intermittent claudication. Intermittent claudication is pain and discomfort in the leg that occurs when you’re active and goes away when you rest. If you suddenly have severe pain, the blood flow may be significantly or completely blocked. Other symptoms you may notice include:
If you’re older than 50, you’re a man or postmenopausal woman, or you have a family history of heart disease, you’re at a higher risk for PVD, so it’s important to get regular checkups to catch it in the early stage. While you can’t change your gender, age, or genetics, all of these risk factors for PVD can be improved with lifestyle changes:
The doctors at Consultants in Cardiology & Electrophysiology offer comprehensive services for PVD, including in-office diagnostic procedures such as ultrasound, nuclear testing, and electrocardiograms. After the cause of your PVD is identified, a treatment plan is developed that’s best for your individual health. It may include recommendations for a diet to help lower blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure, or an exercise plan to help relieve pain from intermittent claudication.
You may need medications to reduce leg pain or to thin blood and treat hypertension or high cholesterol. Should you need more advanced treatment, you’ll receive excellent care, as our doctors are experts at surgical and minimally invasive procedures to treat atherosclerosis, such as bypass surgery, angioplasty, and stenting to keep arteries open.