The truth about peripheral vascular disease (PVD)

By: Bel Marra Health | Heart Health | Tuesday, July 21, 2015 - 04:36 AM

peripheral vascular disease

The body uses the circulatory system – which relies on veins, arteries and capillaries – to carry blood throughout the body. Arteries carry oxygenated blood away from the heart to organs and cells. Veins transport oxygen-depleted blood through the kidneys, lungs and liver where it is filtered and returned to the heart. While there are exceptions, the direction of blood flow is what distinguishes arteries and veins from each other. Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD), occurs when blood can’t get to where it needs to go due to a narrowing of blood vessels.

Two types of peripheral vascular disease

Peripheral vascular disease, synonymous to peripheral artery disease (PAD), is a disease which affects blood vessels. Blood vessels narrow, which affects the circulation to limbs and organs including the kidneys and stomach.
1. Functional PVD: There are no defects in the blood vessels themselves. Typically, functional PVD is due to spasms, which can come and go, or factors such as working with machinery that vibrates, cold temperatures and smoking.

2. Organic PVD: Organic PVD refers to structural changes in the blood vessels. Inflammation and tissue damage are examples of organic PVD. Peripheral artery disease in particular occurs when fatty plaques build up in the arteries and limit blood flow.

Causes and symptoms of PVD

causes of pvdBoth functional PVD and organic PVD can be caused by smoking. Causes of functional PVD, which differ from organic PVD include emotional stress, cold temperatures and operating vibrating machinery.

Organic PVD may be caused by fatty build-up in the arteries as seen with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, infection, injury to extremities, coronary heart disease and diabetes.

Early symptoms of peripheral vascular disease:

  • Painful cramping
  • Aches
  • Fatigue
  • Burning sensations.

Severe symptoms of peripheral vascular disease:

  • Changes to skin – color, thinning etc.
  • Weak pulse in leg and feet
  • Gangrene – tissue death caused by lack of blood flow
  • Wounds won’t heal
  • Reduced hair growth on legs
  • Toes may turn blue due to lack of oxygenated blood
  • Burning sensation in toes
  • Leg cramps while in bed
  • Muscles feel numb or heavy
  • Limbs may appear red or blue
  • Toenails become thick and opaque.

Many of these symptoms may be confused with aging. If you start to notice these changes speak with your doctor.

11 risk factors of peripheral vascular disease

risks factor of pvdMedical and lifestyle factors may increase one’s risk of developing peripheral vascular disease, these include:

  • High or abnormal cholesterol
  • Cerebrovascular disease (stroke)
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of cholesterol, blood pressure or PVD
  • Hypertension
  • Kidney disease
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Lack of engagement of physical activity
  • Being over the age of 50.

Treatment and prevention of peripheral vascular disease

prevention of peripheral vascular diseaseOne way to treat peripheral vascular disease is by changing lifestyle habits. This includes cessation of smoking, achieving a healthy weight, managing diabetes, lowering cholesterol (this can be done through diet and exercise), managing hypertension and in general eating well and exercising.

If lifestyle changes are not enough to help treat PVD, your doctor may recommend medications that can help support cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and blood thinners to reduce clotting.

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