Peripheral Vascular Disease: Symptoms, Risks, Treatment

However if you have functional PVD, your blood vessels tend to exaggerate this response.

woman rubbing calf due to peripheral vascular diseease

Peripheral vascular disease or PVD is a disorder of the body’s circulatory system which does not include the brain or heart. PVD only affects your blood vessels.

There are two types of peripheral vascular disease, which are functional PVD and organic PVD. The most common symptom of PVD is claudication. This occurs when you experience pain in your lower limbs or muscles while walking. PVD can be treated, and help can be given to stop the disease and also help you manage your symptoms.


What is Peripheral Vascular Disease?

PVD is a blood circulation disorder or a disorder of the body’s circulatory system. However, it does not include the brain or the heart. Peripheral vascular disease can refer to diseases that affect blood vessels. It is also known as arterial insufficiency of the legs, arteriosclerosis obliterans, claudication, or intermittent claudication. Those with PVD can cause your blood vessels such as your veins and arteries to get narrow, get blocked, or spasm. When your blood vessels become narrow, the blood flow decreases as a result. PVD can cause fatigue and pain which improves with rest. It also affects your blood vessels in your arm, intestines, kidney, and stomach.


Types of PVD

There are two main types of peripheral vascular disease, which are functional PVD and organic PVD. In functional PVD, your blood vessels widen and narrow. Hence, it can cause blood flow to decrease. If you have functional PVD, there is also no damage to your blood vessels. In organic PVD, your blood vessels can be inflamed, have plaque, or have damage to the tissue.

Functional PVD is caused by cold temperatures, certain drugs, emotional stress, or operating vibrating machinery or tools. Blood vessels usually widen and narrow, which is caused by many things. Hence, if you have functional PVD, your blood vessels tend to exaggerate this response.

Organic PVD is caused by blood vessel inflammation, diabetes, extreme injuries, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It may also be because of infections, muscles or ligaments with abnormal structures, or smoking. If you have organic PVD, then the structure of your blood vessels have changed in some way.

Peripheral Vascular Disease Symptoms and Risk Factors

Peripheral Vascular Disease Symptoms

The first signs of peripheral vascular disease can come about slowly and irregularly. Also, symptoms may occur more frequently and may worsen progressively.

Here are some symptoms you may experience if you have a peripheral vascular disease:

  • Claudication, which is lower limb or muscle pain that occurs while walking
  • Cramping in your legs and feet that worsens with physical activity
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling numb and heavy
  • Leg cramps while lying in bed
  • Bluish or pale legs and arms
  • Thin or pale skin on feet and legs
  • Weak pulses on the lower part of the body
  • Legs and feet have wounds or ulcers that do not heal
  • Reduced hair growth on legs
  • Thick and opaque toenails
  • Toes are blue
  • Toes have severe burning

If you have any symptoms of peripheral vascular disease and suspect that you may have it, you must seek medical attention and go to your doctor or healthcare provider because PVD can cause complications if it is left untreated. Peripheral vascular disease can also cause blood loss, dead tissue, and gangrene.

Furthermore, seek medical attention if any of your limbs turn cold, pale, and painful, with a weak pulse. This is a medical emergency. You must seek immediate treatment to avoid any complications.

Peripheral Vascular Disease Risks

Peripheral vascular disease is common in people 60 years old and above. Also, plenty of people with diabetes get peripheral vascular disease as well. PVD is more common among males. You are more likely to get PVD if you are a smoker.

Risk Factors

You are at a higher risk of getting a peripheral vascular disease if you have any of the following conditions:

  • A smoker
  • Over 50 years old
  • Overweight
  • Do not have enough physical activity
  • Family history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or PVD
  • History of cerebrovascular disease or stroke
  • Abnormal cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney disease on hemodialysis
  • Poor eating habits
  • Struggle with drug abuse

Peripheral Vascular Disease Treatment

Peripheral vascular disease can be treated. Treatment can help you manage your symptoms, and can help stop the peripheral vascular disease from progressing.

Your doctor may advise you to eat a balanced diet, lose weight, and improve your diet. Also, you should quit because smoking can reduce blood flow in your vessels. PVD may worsen if you smoke.


In some cases, percutaneous balloon angioplasty can be used as a treatment option. The blockage is located, and its severity is determined. A catheter is a thin tube that is inserted into the artery with the blockage. The tiny balloon at the end of the catheter is then inflated so that the artery widens and the plaque inside can be pushed aside. When angioplasty fails, stenting can also be done. A stent is placed inside the artery so that it is held open.

Similarly, the plaque may be removed by atherectomy, which is a procedure where a tiny blade is inserted and cuts away the plaque.


While not everyone diagnosed with PVD is prescribed medication, PVD can be treated with medication for a handful of purposes. Some medication treats PVD and claudication. While other medications may be prescribed to help you stop smoking, control your blood pressure, control your cholesterol, and also control your blood sugar.

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which can help lower blood pressure
  • Antiplatelet medication to help with the prevention of clot formation
  • Atorvastatin, Simvastatin, or other Statins to help you lower high cholesterol
  • Cilostazol to help increase blood flow and also relieve symptoms of claudication
  • Clopidogrel or daily aspirin, which can help you reduce blood clotting
  • Diabetes medication to help you control blood sugar

Finally, if you feel any pain, you should ask your doctor or healthcare provider for treatment to improve your blood flow and also decrease your pain.

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