Peripheral Vascular Disease

What is it? How can you deal with it?

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a disease that affects the blood vessels in areas surrounding the heart. It is a serious circulation problem that affects arteries that carry blood to the arms and legs. This pathology can raise the risk of suffering a heart attack. About one third of patients with PAD who suffer a heart attack or stroke die from it. Also, if PAD is left untreated, the symptoms can worsen.

What are the causes of PVD?

PVD occurs when arteries narrow due to plaque buildup. This can be caused by cholesterol, fat deposits, calcium, and other substances in the blood. Blocked arteries prevent oxygen-rich blood from reaching the muscles when they need it the most, and this lack of oxygen causes pain. Moving can become difficult, and injuries and infections can occur that cause the patient to lose a limb.

What are the risk factors of PVD?

People with a higher chance of having this disease are the over 50’s or those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, or people who have suffered a stroke (that caused anomalies in neurological function and lasted more than 24 hours). Other risk factors can include eating food high in fat, not exercising, smoking, being stressed and/or overweight. There are also other factors that cannot be avoided, such as menopause, aging, or having a family history of heart disease.

What are the symptoms of PVD?

One of the classic symptoms of PVD is dull, cramping pain in the legs, hips, or buttocks during exercise or just when walking. This pain stops when you rest — a symptom called intermittent claudication. Another sign can include numb or tingling legs, feet or toes, change in skin color (pale, bluish or reddish color), cold skin (for example, in legs, feet, arms or toes), impotence and infections or ulcers that don’t heal. Symptoms usually appear in the part of the body that has blocked arteries. However, there are people who suffer PVD and don’t see any symptoms, so it’s important to be aware of the disease’s risk.

How is PVD diagnosed?

The most common exam to detect PVD is the ankle-brachial index (ABI), which compares blood pressure in the legs and arms using a bracelet. If blood pressure differs, it could mean that this person has PVD. In this case, it’s recommended that further tests are performed to accurately determine if the patient has this pathology

What does treatment of PVD involve?

This depends on the seriousness of the disease. Patient could try exercising or taking medications, and there are other options to help blood flow freely again through the affected arteries. Among them, you’ll find:

  • Angioplasty: this consists of inserting a catheter with a small balloon like device through the blocked artery. Once inflated, the balloon compresses the plaque against the walls of the artery.
  • Stent implantation: during angioplasty, a tiny metal mesh tube called a stent may be placed in the artery to help hold it open.
  • Atherectomy: a special catheter is used to gently shave and remove plaque from the arteries.
  • Endarterectomy: a special catheter is used to open blocked blood vessels by removing plaque buildup from inside the artery wall.
  • Bypass surgery: a healthy blood vessel taken from another part of the body, or a small man-made tube, is used to deviate blood and make it flow around a blocked artery.


Early detection of PVD can be a huge advantage. To avoid this disease, it is advisable not to smoke, maintain a healthy diet, keep cholesterol low and take regular exercise.