03. Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)


PVD Symptoms
PVD Risk Factors
Diagnosing PVD
PVD Treatment Options

Outside the heart are arterial systems that deliver blood throughout the body. They are called the Peripheral Vascular System and include:

  • The Carotid Arteries – which supply blood to the brain
  • The Renal Arteries – which supply blood to the kidneys
  • The Iliac Arteries – which supply blood to the lower abdomen
  • The Femoral and Popliteal Arteries – which supply blood to the legs

Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD) happens when a build-up of cholesterol, or plaque, occurs in one or more of the peripheral arteries. This build-up can cause the artery to narrow, limiting the amount of blood being delivered to the affected area. If the artery becomes completely blocked, sections of the body can become damaged due to lack of oxygen and nutrients, ultimately weakening the entire body.

PVD Symptoms

Many people with PVD do not have any symptoms. Sometimes symptoms are unusual, mild or thought to be associated with aging or other health problems and are not reported. Since PVD can occur anywhere in the body, the symptoms listed below may indicate the affected arterial system:

  • Cramping, pain from discomfort in the hips, thighs or calf muscles (claudication)
  • Buttock pain
  • Fatigue, heaviness, tiredness
  • Cold sensation, numbness, tingling or pain in the legs or feet
  • Sores or wounds on toes, feet, or legs that heal slowly, poorly, or not at all
  • One leg feels colder than the other
  • Poor nail growth on hands or feet
  • Hair growth on toes and legs decreased
  • Kidney (renal) failure
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Impotence
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arms, or legs
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

See your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above.

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PVD Risk Factors

There are several risk factors that contribute to CVD. Some risk factors, like having a family history of PVD, and advancing age, cannot be changed. Fortunately, many of them can be controlled through lifestyle changes and can greatly reduce PVD risk. Consult your doctor before beginning any exercise or diet plan.

Any of the risk factors listed below may increase your chance of developing PVD:

  • Advancing age
  • Genetic factors such as family history of PVD
  • High cholesterol levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of exercise/inactivity
  • Obesity (being overweight)
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes

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Diagnosing PVD

If a doctor suspects that a patient has peripheral vascular disease, a complete physical exam, blood tests, and functional tests may be used to determine the extent of the patient’s PVD. The functional tests used to make a PVD diagnosis can include one or more of the following:

  • Ultrasound
  • Angiogram
  • Computerized Axial Tomography (CT or CAT) Scan
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Ankle-Brachial index for arms and legs

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PVD Treatment Options

Based on the severity of symptoms and results of the functional tests performed, the doctor will recommend the best treatment option for their patient. Treatment options can range from a combination of any of the following:

  • Lifestyle changes such as changing the type of foods you eat, increasing activity/exercise, and giving up smoking.
  • Taking medication to relieve pain and help expand the affected arteries to restore appropriate blood flow.
  • Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) procedures such as Angioplasty, Stent Implantation and Atherectomy.
  • Surgery to clean out the narrowed/blocked part of the artery, or to bypass the diseased section of the artery.

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Read: Chapter 04. The Procedure

Information presented in this Patient Healthcare Guide is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent disease, and should not be used in place of a visit to your doctor or healthcare provider. Discuss this information with your physician or healthcare provider to determine what is right for you.