Peripheral vascular disease refers to narrowed arteries in the leg due to a build-up of fatty deposits. A potentially serious condition, PVD can be successfully treated with lifestyle changes.
Peripheral vascular disease (PVD), also known as peripheral artery disease, refers to a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries outside of the heart or brain. According to the CDC, the condition affects about 8.5 million people in the U.S., between 12 and 20 percent of whom are over the age of 60.
Most often, PVD appears in the legs, where a narrowing of the arteries restricts blood flow to the limbs. As a result, patients with PVD feel pain in the calves when they walk which stops when they’re at rest. Other signs of PVD include numbness and tingling in the legs, slow-healing sores on the leg or feet, a sensation of cold in the leg or foot, and changing skin color on the leg.
Though age and family history are risk factors for PVD, the chief cause is smoking. High cholesterol levels, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle all rank as contributing factors, as well. Sometimes, PVD develops due to an infection, inflammation, or injury to the arteries.
Left untreated, PVD may lead to stroke, blood clots, heart attack, or gangrene as tissue in the affected limb dies, possibly necessitating an amputation. Fortunately, if PVD is detected diagnosed in its early stages, patients have the opportunity to make lifestyle changes, take medication, or undergo surgical intervention to treat the condition.
Diagnosing and Treating PVD
The most widely-used test for PVD is an ankle/brachial index evaluation. For this procedure, blood pressure cuffs are placed on the ankles and arms. A higher blood pressure reading in the legs than the arms indicates well-functioning blood vessels. Imaging tests such as ultrasounds or MRIs may also be used to spot any blockages in the arteries.
Surgery isn’t always the first line of treatment for PVD. Patients are prescribed medications to prevent blood clots and lower cholesterol. PVD patients diagnosed with high blood pressure and/or diabetes must take medications to treat those chronic conditions. Beyond those therapies, patients can make lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of PVD and lessen symptoms.
Quit Smoking. Since smoking is a leading risk factor for PVD, it’s strongly recommended that patients with PVD give up cigarettes as soon as possible.
Start Exercising. Prior to embarking on an exercise program, patients should talk to their doctor to ensure they’re choosing an activity that’s safe and manageable. Generally, leg pain diminishes as activity increases.
Eat Healthy. It’s recommended that patients with PVD stick to a diet that is low in sodium and saturated or trans fat. Instead, eat healthy meals packed with fruits and vegetables.
If surgical intervention is required, patients have several options. After a blockage is located though a dye injected into the vein and captured on an X-ray, angioplasty is performed. During angioplasty, a catheter is threaded through the artery; when it reaches the blockage, a small balloon is inflated to push away the blockage and open the artery.
Sometimes stenting is done in conjunction with angioplasty. To keep the artery open and blood flowing, a stent is placed around the artery. Another treatment method involves grafting a blood vessel from another part of the body or a synthetic blood vessel either above or below the blockage. Blood is then able to bypass the blocked artery. A doctor may also surgically remove the blockage in an atherectomy procedure.
Do You Have PVD?
If you experience leg pain when walking, it could be due to PVD. Don’t ignore these signs. Instead, make an appointment with one of the vascular specialists at TriCity Cardiology. We’re experts in diagnosing and treating a variety of heart and vein disorders. Schedule your consultation today.