Peripheral Vascular Disease

What is Peripheral Vascular Disease?

Peripheral Vascular Disease, also called peripheral artery disease, is a common condition related to the circulatory system. The patient’s extremities are unable to receive enough blood flow due to narrowed arteries, which reduce the amount of blood that reaches the limbs. The condition is more commonly noticed in the legs but can also appear in the arms.

In some cases, peripheral vascular disease could hint at another underlying problem. Arteries might be narrowed because of fatty deposits throughout the vessels. In addition to reducing blood flow to the body’s limbs, the heart and brain may not be receiving as much blood as they need to function properly.

What are the Symptoms of Peripheral Vascular Disease?

Indications of peripheral vascular disease can range from absolutely nothing to more severe symptoms. Those who do experience discomfort will usually notice:

  • Leg pain while walking (claudication)
  • Muscle cramping/pain that intensifies with activity and eases with rest
  • Numbness or weakness in limbs
  • Coldness in feet or hands
  • Sores that will not heal on extremities
  • Hair loss or impaired hair growth on arms or legs
  • Skin color changes in affected area
  • Shiny skin on legs
  • No pulse/weak pulse in extremities
  • Slowed toenail growth
  • Erectile dysfunction (men)

Left untreated, peripheral vascular disease can reach a point where it causes discomfort when lying down or at rest. It may even make it difficult to sleep.

Peripheral Vascular Disease Causes

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is usually caused by a buildup of fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries. These deposits, or “plaques” are known as atherosclerosis and over many years they cause arteries to narrow, which restricts normal blood flow. Atherosclerosis can affect the heart and arteries throughout the entire body, but when it occurs in arteries which deliver blood to the limbs, it causes PVD.

There are many reasons why atherosclerosis may occur, most of which are environmental. Smoking is a very common cause, as is high cholesterol which occurs as a result of poor diet. People with high blood pressure often develop atherosclerosis too. Being obese also increases the risk of PVD, as does having type 2 diabetes.

Some people are more susceptible to PVD if they have a family history of the condition. It is thought that certain genetic traits could simply cause some people to develop fatty plaques in the arteries more readily than others.

How is Peripheral Vascular Disease Treated?

There are several lifestyle changes and home remedies that can alleviate the discomfort of peripheral vascular disease. Proper exercise, healthy eating, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and quitting smoking are effective management approaches.

Furthermore, staying away from over-the-counter cold medications with pseudoephedrine will help greatly, as these drugs constrict blood vessels and aggravate symptoms. If needed, there are several prescription medicines to help control underlying contributing conditions and relieve symptoms. Some cases may require surgery or angioplasty to treat the condition.

Peripheral Vascular Disease Prevention

PVD can be prevented by adopting a healthier lifestyle. Those who smoke should quit as soon as possible, as this is a major factor which contributes to the fatty deposits in the arteries.

Individuals with high cholesterol should strive to adopt a healthier diet in order to reduce their cholesterol levels. Avoid eating saturated fat, such as that found in fatty meat, butter, lard, and cream, in favor of moderate amounts of unsaturated fats, which can be found in vegetable oils.

People with diabetes should work closely with their healthcare provider to get the condition under control and reduce the risk of developing PVD. People who are obese should also strive to lose weight by controlling their diet and doing more exercise, and those at a healthy BMI should adopt a balanced diet in order to maintain their weight.