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Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)

Do you have any of the warning signs for Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)? This condition has some common symptoms, but many people with PVD may show no symptoms at all.

Peripheral Vascular Disease, also knows and Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is caused when there is damage or blockage in the blood vessels that are distant from your heart -- the peripheral arteries and veins. Blockage in these arteries and veins most commonly affects the muscles in your arms and legs.

Causes of PVD

PVD most commonly causes blood clots, swelling or narrowing and blockage of the blood vessels.

Symptoms / Warning Signs of PVD

The most common symptom is painful muscle cramping in the hips, thighs or calves when walking, climbing the stairs or exercising. Other warning signs include tingling or a dull ache in the legs. Typically, the pain goes away with rest and returns when the person starts walking again. This makes sense because working muscles need more blood flow; resting muscles can get by with less. If there's a blood flow blockage due to plaque buildup in the arteries or veins, the muscles won't get enough blood during exercise.

The feeling of cramps or pain is the muscles' way of warning the body that they are not getting enough blood to meet the increased need during exercise. This is called "intermittent claudication."

Could you be at risk?

Sometimes, leg pain can be confusing. People may think it is caused from arthritis, sciatica or just"stiffness" from getting older. It's important to remember that PVD pain occurs in the muscles, not the joints.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Foot or toe wounds that won't heal or are slow to heal,
  • Coldness in the lower legs or feet
  • Skin discoloration on the legs or feet, especially a pale or bluish color

Risk Factors of PVD

The number one risk factor for PVD is smoking. Your risk for getting PVD increases four times if you smoke or have a history of smoking.

  • You are also at highest risk for PVD if you are older than age 50 and have a personal or family history of vascular disease, heart attack, stroke or abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA).
  • African-Americans are more than twice as likely as Caucasians to develop PVD.

An accurate diagnosis is important, because physicians warn that PVD can potentially be life-threatening, and it's often a sign of other potential vascular problems that could lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD) Screenings

Anyone with leg pain symptoms, or leg pain after a brief walk, is encouraged to call for a free PVD screening. The screening takes just a few minutes. It's painless, simple and non-invasive.

During the screening, a cardiac professional measures blood pressure in the arms and compares that to the blood pressure taken at the ankle. The difference between them is calculated and used to determine if there is a reason to suspect a blockage in the peripheral arteries leading to the legs. This is called an ankle-brachial index (ABI). Test results will be sent to your primary care physician.

Depending on the results of the Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI), more extensive vascular testing may be recommended including

  • Aortic Scan: The Doppler Test detects the presence of aneurysms that could rupture and be fatal.
  • Carotid Scan:  A painless ultrasound test to detect blockages in your carotid arteries, that could lead to stroke..
  • Consider this screening annually if:

    • Any individual 55 and older
    • Have diabetes, hypertension, or uncontrolled high cholesterol (starting no later than age 40)
    • Have a family history of heart disease

    If potential blockages are found, further testing may be recommended to confirm the presence and degree of blockage detected. A copy of test results is given to the patient or their family physician.

    Please contact the locations below for screening dates, screening costs or for more information.

    Supervised exercise programs through our Cardiac Rehab program, designed for people with Peripheral Vascular Disease, are also available. The specialized program helps patients with PVD get on the right course toward treating and controlling symptoms, while lowering the risk for future complications.

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