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What Is Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)?: The Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

Has your doctor talked to you about peripheral vascular disease? Do you have any of the risk factors or symptoms? Have you already been diagnosed?

Not many people know about peripheral vascular disease until they already have it. But what is it?

We’re here to explain. Whether this is new to you or you’re interested in learning more after a doctor’s diagnosis, we have all of the basic information that you’re looking for. Keep reading to learn more. 

What Is Peripheral Vascular Disease?

Peripheral vascular disease (otherwise known as PVD) is a disorder that affects your circulation. It causes your blood vessels to block or narrow, making it so blood has a harder time getting to the rest of your organs.

With PVD, your body might form clots in the arteries. If left unchecked, these clots can lead to amputation. 

Even if you haven’t heard of it, you may have heard of one of its alternative names. It’s also called arteriosclerosis, claudication, intermittent claudication, or arterial insufficiency of the legs.

You may also have heard it referred to as peripheral arterial disease (or PAD). While PAD is a type of PVD, the terms are often used interchangeably. 

It’s common among people over 60, with over 8.5 million people suffering from it in the United States alone. 

There are two primary categories for PVD: functional PVD and organic PVD. When plaque buildup happens, it causes the blood to constrict and narrow. This is what happens with organic PVD.

Functional PVD causes blood vessels to narrow and expand. This is something that happens to people without PVD as well, but with PVD the reaction is extreme.

Noticing the extreme reactions vs normal reactions isn’t always easy. Check out these reasons that clinics should have the Viasonix Falcon Pro to help with the diagnosis of Raynaud’s disease, a kind of functional PVD.

The Symptoms of Peripheral Vascular Disease

How do you know if you have peripheral vascular disease? 

There are a few common peripheral vascular disease symptoms that you should bring up to your doctor if you’re concerned. You’ll typically feel these symptoms in your lower body; mostly in your legs and toes. 

Your legs may change color, looking pale, blue, purple, or red. They’ll also have thinner skin and a reduction in hair growth.

The appearance of your nails will change as well. They’ll look more opaque.

Wounds and ulcers on your legs won’t heal, and you may notice that your leg’s pulse feels weaker than normal. You’ll also experience pain, cramps, and burning, or numbness and heaviness.

If you notice these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible. They’re a sign that your circulation isn’t working in your legs.

Risk Factors for Peripheral Vascular Disease

There are several risk factors for peripheral vascular disease.

Organic PVD and functional PVD have some mutual causes and some separate ones. Organic PVD can be caused by smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Functional PVD causes include exposure to cold temperatures, stress, overexposure to vibrating machinery, and drug use. 

Other risk factors include both things that you can and cannot control. Age is a risk factor. People over the age of 50 are more likely to develop PVD. 

If you’re overweight, have kidney disease or heart disease, or have a family history of heart or circulatory problems, you’re also more likely to end up with peripheral vascular disease. 

You can lower your chances of PVD by having a regular exercise routine and a well-balanced diet.

What Happens When It’s Left Untreated?

There are many complications that can arise from PVD when you don’t seek diagnosis and treatment. 

You’ll almost surely experience long-term pain until you seek treatment. Your skin will be paler than normal, and you’ll have a harder time healing wounds. This can lead to infections.

You may also experience bone infections, which, when left untreated, can be fatal. 

Erectile dysfunction is common with PVD due to the lack of blood circulation, as is tissue death (which may cause a need for amputation). 

In other words, it’s crucial that you seek treatment for PVD as soon as possible. 

Treatment for Peripheral Vascular Disease

If your doctor diagnoses you with PVD, there’s no cure for it. The goal of treatment is a reduction in symptoms and stopping the progression of the disease. When managed well, you may see your symptoms disappear entirely. 

Depending on the progression of the disease, your doctor will first suggest healthy lifestyle changes. If you don’t exercise or eat healthy meals, they’ll suggest that you start. Your exercise doesn’t have to be extreme. It’s as simple as taking frequent walks.

If you’re overweight, your doctor may put you on a meal plan. If you smoke, it causes your blood vessels to constrict even without PVD. With PVD you’ll make the symptoms worse, so your doctor will advise you to quit. 

Early diagnosis of PVD makes it more likely that lifestyle changes alone will reduce or eradicate your symptoms.

If you were diagnosed late, you’ll need to take medication or get surgery. Your doctor may give you medications that reduce clotting (like aspirin), increase circulation, and lower high blood pressure and cholesterol. 

If the medications aren’t successful, your doctor may recommend surgery. They may suggest angioplasty to widen the arteries, and vascular surgery, which makes it easier for the blood to flow through the narrow arteries. 

PVD: Do You Have the Symptoms and Risk Factors?

If you haven’t been diagnosed with peripheral vascular disease and the symptoms and risk factors that we listed sound familiar, it might be time to see a doctor and express your concerns. 

There are many testing options for PVD, and you can get a diagnosis quickly. Catching PVD early is the best way to guarantee a reduction of symptoms and live a happy and healthy life. 

For more articles that can answer all of your medical questions (and so much more), check out the rest of our site.