What is Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)?

What is Peripheral Vascular Disease?

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) refers to conditions that may impact the arteries, veins, and lymphatic vessels. PVD can affect any blood vessel outside of the heart, and it may restrict oxygen and blood flow to the organs. Peripheral vascular disease is often found in the arteries of the legs and feet, taking form as a condition called peripheral artery disease (PAD). 

If you suspect you have PVD or are experiencing symptoms like dull off-and-on cramping in the legs or a change in skin color, reach out to a vascular specialist who can help diagnose and provide treatment options if you have this condition. 

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Is PVD the Same as PAD (Peripheral Artery Disease)?

PAD and PVD are often used interchangeably, but they aren’t the same. PAD is a progressive condition caused by narrowing of the arteries which restricts blood flow to the limbs, most commonly to the muscles of the legs. This is a serious disease that can lead to decreased mobility and even amputation in severe cases if not treated.

One of the key differences between PAD and PVD is that PVD can impact any blood vessel, including the veins, responsible for carrying blood to the heart. PAD, on the other hand, only affects the artery, which is the vessel transporting blood away from the heart to the other parts of the body.

PAD causes tissue damage to the structure of the artery while PVD doesn’t have the same effect on blood vessels. In later stages, PAD treatment options are limited because of the damage to the artery. This is why early treatment is essential in stopping the progression before damage occurs.  

What Causes Peripheral Vascular Disease?

The most common cause of PVD is atherosclerosis, which is a buildup of plaque along the walls of the arteries. When plaque builds up and hardens, it restricts the blood flowing through the artery to the organs and muscles. Other causes of PVD include injury to the legs or arms, infection, and irregular anatomy of ligaments or muscles.

What are Common Risk Factors for PVD?

Although certain risk factors cannot be controlled, the majority can be prevented or treated to mitigate your chances of developing PVD.

The main risk factors for PVD include:

  • Age, especially over 50
  • Family history of PAD, heart disease, or stroke
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

If one or more of these conditions impacts you, talk to your doctor about preventative measures.

PVD Signs and Symptoms

You may exhibit symptoms of PVD, which could lead you to seek treatment. In the early stages, you may not have any signs that anything is wrong with your blood vessels. As the condition progresses, you may begin experiencing PVD symptoms, which can include:

  • Dull cramping and pain that comes and goes
  • Burning in the legs
  • Tight or heavy muscles
  • One leg feels cooler to the touch than the other
  • Fatigued legs
  • Change in skin color
  • Loss of hair

Some PVD symptoms are similar to PAD symptoms, which can include:

  • Pain the legs when you are active
  • Pain that goes away when you are resting
  • Weakness in the legs
  • Numbness or a tingling sensation in the legs
  • Legs feel heavy or muscles are tight

If you notice any of these signs of PVD or PAD, you should seek treatment right away.

How is PVD Diagnosed?

A doctor will perform a medical exam based on the patient’s symptoms. They will also get the medical and family history of the patient. The doctor may also prescribe certain tests, which could include the following:

  • Angiogram: An X-ray image of the heart’s blood vessels
  • Doppler ultrasound flow studies: This test uses sound waves to measure the blood flow through a vessel.
  • Ankle-brachial index: This method compares the blood pressure in the leg with that in the arm
  • Magnetic resonance angiography: This type of MRI examines blood vessels.

Once the doctor has reviewed the test results, they will have adequate information to make, or rule out, a diagnosis of PVD.

Treatment for Peripheral Vascular Disease

Treatment options exist for PVD, which can open up the blood vessel to increase blood flow. USA Vascular centers offers various treatments for PAD, which is a type of PVD. They include the following:

  • Angioplasty, which uses a tiny catheter inserted into the artery to push the plaque against the walls and allow for better blood flow
  • Stent placement, which works with angioplasty and includes having a mesh stent put in to keep the artery wall open
  • Atherectomy, where plaque is scraped off the artery wall to increase blood flow

A personalized treatment plan may also include lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise to prevent the progression of the disease. It’s important to keep in mind that while lifestyle changes are important, they can not replace the need for treatment.

Schedule Your Consultation at USA Vascular Centers Today

Our vascular specialists will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan to stop the progression of peripheral artery disease and to improve your quality of life. Schedule a consultation online or give us a call at 888.773.2193 to visit one of more than 40 treatment centers around the country.

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