What is Peripheral Vascular Disease?

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is also known as peripheral arterial disease or peripheral vascular occlusive disease. It is a circulation disorder that can affect any blood vessels outside of your brain or heart. PVD causes your arteries, veins, or lymphatic vessels to narrow or become blocked. 

Causes of PVD


The most common cause of PVD is arteriosclerosis or “hardening of the arteries.” Arteriosclerosis can cause a plaque build-up in the vessels and limit blood and oxygen flow to organs and limbs. If untreated, the plaque growth can cause clots, which can completely block the artery, leading to loss of fingers, toes, or limbs – or organ damage. 


Other less common causes of PVD include:

    • Inflammation of the blood vessels
    • Injury to the limbs
    • Anatomical/structural irregularities 
    • Infection 
    • Blood clots
    • Diabetes

What can increase your risk for PVD?

Several factors increase your risk of developing PVD. These include:

    • Diabetes
    • High Blood Pressure
    • High Blood Cholesterol
    • Coronary Heart Disease
    • Stroke
    • Kidney Disease
    • Being overweight
    • Smoking or drug use
    • Having a physically inactive (sedentary)

The risk also increases for individuals aged over 50 years and individuals with a family history of heart disease, PVD, or stroke.  

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What are the symptoms of PVD?

Many people with PVD do not experience any symptoms at all. The most common symptom seen in PVD is called claudication. Claudication is pain/cramping experienced in the legs when physically active. The pain can range in severity and usually disappears when resting. 


Other symptoms of PVD include:

    • Weakness, numbness, or tingling in the legs.
    • Reduced temperature of the lower limb (feels colder when compared to the opposite side)
    • Color change of the legs/feet (dark red, blue, pale color change)
    • Shiny appearance to the skin on the lower legs or feet
    • Weak pulse in the legs or feet
    • Impotence in men
    • Hair loss or slower hair growth on feet and legs
    • Slower toenail growth
    • Wounds on legs or feet that are slow to heal
    • Pain in the buttock area
    • Burning/aching in the feet when resting


PVD Treatment

The main goals of PVD treatment are to control the symptoms, reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other complications, and slow down the progression of the disease. 


Treatment plans may include:

    • Lifestyle changes: such as stopping smoking, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and being more physically active.
    • Medication: can be prescribed to increase blood flow, lower blood pressure, lower blood cholesterol, or manage diabetes. 
    • Surgical procedures: can range from angioplasty to increase blood flow to amputation in severe circumstances. 


A treatment plan will depend on your individual symptoms, risk factors, and stage of the disease. Treatment can slow
or stop the progression of PVD and help reduce the risk of complications. Without treatment, PVD can be progressive and result in severe tissue damage due to inadequate blood flow. 


Who can help?

The first place to seek help is your primary care/family doctor, who can diagnose PVD and treat mild symptoms. If symptoms are more severe or complicated, your doctor might refer you to a cardiologist (a specialist in heart conditions) or a vascular specialist (who treats diseases of the circulatory system). 


If you are concerned about PVD symptoms or other cardiac problems, then Colorado Springs Cardiology is here to
help. Our diverse and experienced team of experts is available to support you whether you require a one-time consultation or routine cardiac care.