ZocdocAnswersWhat is peripheral vascular disease (PVD)?

Question

What is peripheral vascular disease (PVD)?

I've been having a lot of trouble with pain in my legs. I'm getting older (pushing 60) so I at first thought this was just aches and pains of age, but I've been doing reading online and it sounds exactly like I have peripheral vascular disease. What is this and what should I know about it?

Answer

Peripheral vascular disease, also commonly referred to as peripheral arterial disease, refers to disease of the arteries that supply blood to the extremities of the body. This can include the large arteries in the groin and all the way down the legs, large arteries in the arms, and even the smaller arteries that supply the fingers and toes. Peripheral vascular disease has a number of causes, the most common of which is atherosclerosis. This refers to a build-up of cholesterol-containing fatty plaques on the walls of the arteries, and is the same process that damages the coronary arteries and makes heart disease the most common cause of death in this country. Peripheral vascular disease can also be caused by narrowing of the arteries due to scarring, as well as by a sudden blockage of blood flow due to a blood clot from a different part of the body. One classic sign of developing peripheral vascular disease in the legs is claudication, which is the feeling of pain in the legs that occurs with exertion. Initially, this pain gets better with rest. As the degree of vascular disease worsens, the pain will come on quicker and may even start to develop at rest. You should certainly see your primary care physician to talk about your symptoms. He/she may choose to do further work-up including imaging and blood pressure readings on different parts of your legs to help determine the health of your blood vessels.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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