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Understanding the Differences Between PAD vs. PVD

Understanding the Differences Between PAD vs. PVD

When it comes to managing your health, it’s important to fully understand your condition. It can sometimes be confusing when doctors use terms interchangeably without disclosing what they mean, such as the acronyms PAD and PVD.

A Comparison of Peripheral Artery Disease illustration

What is PAD and PVD?

What can make it hard to understand PAD vs. PVD is that they are sometimes referred to as the same condition. It’s important to know the difference so you can seek the best treatment for your condition. 

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is an overarching term that encompasses vascular diseases that result from circulatory dysfunction caused by damage to arteries or veins. The most common types of PVD are peripheral artery disease (PAD), chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). 

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a type of PVD that most commonly affects the lower extremities. PAD afflicts only your arteries while PVD may affect any blood vessel outside of the heart including veins and lymphatic vessels.  

Early diagnosis and intervention of PAD is crucial to preventing the disease from progressing into more serious health conditions, like stroke, heart attack, or limb amputation. However, the majority of patients with early-stage PAD are asymptomatic, so it’s important to get regular screenings by a doctor. 

At USA Vascular Centers, our vascular doctors specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of PAD in the lower extremities. Our specialists can help you determine if you’re suffering from PVD or PAD, and recommend a personalized treatment plan to improve your condition and quality of life. 



Peripheral Artery Disease vs. Peripheral Vascular Disease

Conditions that involve blocking blood flow through a vessel, whether an artery or a vein, are classified as PVD. PVD is diagnosed and treated by first determining the underlying cause. The American Heart Association categorizes PVD into two types: functional and organic. 

Functional PVD occurs when blood vessels are compressed or spasm. Chronic venous insufficiency is the most common form of functional PVD. 

Organic PVD refers to the blockage of blood vessels, most commonly caused by atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances in the bloodstream that results in narrowing or blockage of artery walls. Peripheral artery disease (PAD), is primarily caused by atherosclerosis, which means it is a type of organic PVD.  

PAD vs. PVD Chart

If you’ve been diagnosed with peripheral artery disease (PAD), then you have a type of PVD. Research shows that up to 50% of patients with PAD are asymptomatic, however, PAD is most commonly diagnosed when a patient experiences intermittent claudication. Claudication is pain in the legs that begins with physical activity and ceases when at rest. 

We’ve created the chart below to guide your understanding of the symptoms of PAD vs. PVD.   

 Claudication: Pain or cramping in legs (muscles   calf, thigh, or buttocks) during activity, which   disappears at rest
 Swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet
 Skin changes, including reddish-blue   discoloration or thin, brittle, shiny skin on the   legs and feet
 Numbness and tingling in your legs
 Slow healing or non-healing sores (ulcers) on   toes, feet, or legs
 Varicose or spider veins
 Loss of hair on legs
 Burning sensation in the calf or thigh 
 Poor toenail growth
 Itchy, dry skin on your legs 
 Erectile dysfunction
 Tired or achy legs
 Leg or foot that feels cool or cold to the touch   compared to the other leg
 Difficulty standing for long periods of time

PAD vs. PVD Treatment Options

Peripheral vascular diseases (PVDs) are progressive conditions that get worse if left untreated and can lead to more serious health issues. Treating PVD includes a wide range of options, including medication to improve blood flow or dilate the blood vessels. For more advanced cases, minimally invasive treatments may be recommended. 

PAD is a type of PVD caused by a buildup of plaque that narrows artery walls, blocking blood flow. These blockages can cause major health concerns if they break off and travel to another part of the body. Floating plaque can cause DVT (deep vein thrombosis) in the iliac veins, or travel up towards the brain causing a stroke. 

To accurately diagnose PAD, a vascular doctor may ask about your symptoms and medical history, in addition to performing a physical exam. A family history of PAD, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and being over the age of 50 are risk factors that you should discuss with your doctor. An ankle brachial test (ABI) is an initial diagnostic test for PAD, which measures the blood pressure at your ankle compared to that in your arm. 

When diagnosed early, lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, and quitting smoking may be recommended by your doctor to manage PAD. However, since most patients are diagnosed once the disease has progressed beyond its asymptomatic stage, treatment is often necessary.

USA Vascular Centers is a national network of outpatient centers dedicated to providing non-surgical treatment for PAD in the lower extremities. Our vascular doctors specialize in the following procedures: 

  • Angioplasty, where a balloon is inserted into the affected artery and inflated to compress the plaque buildup against the walls.
  • Stent placement, in which a wire mesh is inserted into the artery to increase blood flow.
  • Atherectomy, where a tiny catheter is inserted with a blade on the tip to scrape away plaque.

Schedule Your Consultation with USA Vascular Centers Today

If you’re suffering from the symptoms of PAD, the best way to understand your condition and available treatment options is to seek a consultation with a vascular specialist. The vascular doctors at USA Vascular Centers have expertise in diagnosing PAD vs. PVD, and in performing minimally invasive procedures that can alleviate symptoms and improve your quality of life. 

Schedule a consultation or give us a call at 888.773.2193 to get started on your treatment journey at one of our centers around the country.


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