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What Are PVD and PAD?


What Are PVD and PAD?

What is Peripheral Vascular Disease?

Peripheral vascular disorders are conditions that cause changes in the way the blood flows through blood vessels (veins and arteries) in your body.  This may occur when an artery becomes narrowed, weakened or blocked.   It can occur in vessels that carry blood to the legs, arms, stomach or kidneys. 

According to the American Heart Association, it affects 8 to 12 million Americans.  When it occurs in the arteries, it is called peripheral arterial disease, or PAD.  Arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygen away from your heart and supply the rest of your body with oxygen.  In PAD, the blood flows too slowly or stops and oxygen cannot get to that part of the body.  Over time, the lack of blood flow can lead to tissue damage and even death of the affected extremity.  PAD can occur in the arteries of the upper and lower limbs (arms and legs), the neck, the vessels that supply organs and the rest of the body. The lower limbs (legs) are the first and most common body part to be affected by PAD.

What are the causes of Peripheral Artery Disease?

The most common cause of peripheral artery disease is atherosclerosis.  Atherosclerosis is also referred to as the hardening of the arteries and it occurs when fatty deposits, called plaque, build up on the inside walls of the arteries.  Over time, this causes the arteries to become narrowed and form blockages.  Atherosclerosis is the same disease process that leads to stroke and heart attack when it occurs in the heart or brain.  There are other less common possible causes of PAD such as inflammation of the arteries, aneurysms, abnormal vessel development, and the presence of clots. 

How is Peripheral Vascular Disease diagnosed?

  • Ankle Brachial Index (ABI) is a simple non-invasive test that measures the ratio between the blood pressure in your ankle to that in your arm.
  • Ultrasound Doppler Test is a non-invasive test that uses sound waves to provide an image of the inside of the blood vessel to determine if an artery has plaque build-up.
  • Angiogram is the test that will be performed the day of your procedure.  Angiogram involves injecting a special dye into the arteries under a local anesthetic and having x-rays taken.  This reveals the presence of any narrowing or blockages.

What are the symptoms?

  • Aching, cramping, fatigue, heaviness or pain in your legs when you walk or exercise that subsides with rest
  • Pain in your toes or feet at night
  • Ulcers or sores on your feet or legs that are slow in healing
  • A decrease in the temperature of your lower leg or foot especially when compared to the other leg or the rest of your body
  • Symptoms of poor kidney circulation include sudden high blood pressure, or blood pressure that is hard or impossible to control with medications
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