When blood vessels outside the heart become narrowed or blocked, the condition is called Peripheral Vascular Disease, or PVD. This disease is usually caused by a buildup of cholesterol and plaque in the peripheral arteries.
People at greater risk of PVD include smokers, those with diabetes and people with high cholesterol, high blood pressure and a family history of vascular disease. Aging is another common risk factor.
The main symptom is leg pain when walking. This pain typically subsides at rest. The pain is worse when climbing stairs or walking at a faster pace. Some people experience pain at night while in bed. A symptom of severe PVD is that the pain persists even at rest, or the presence of a leg or foot cut or wound that won’t heal.
The most severe risk of PVD is loss of a limb. Unfortunately, this was the case for a young patient of mine. Another serious risk is an infection or a sore that won’t heal. Eventually this can result in a bone infection that can lead to an amputation.
PVD can be diagnosed by examining the feet and legs. There are specific signs such as a weak pulse in the ankle or foot that can indicate the disease. Other non-invasive diagnostic tests are also available to help diagnose the condition.
If PVD is considered treatable, a number of procedures may be considered. For some patients medication and exercise may be the only therapy needed. Another treatment option is a stent to prop open a blocked artery. The last option is a surgical procedure to replace the blocked artery.
To reduce the risk of PVD, people should not smoke, and should control cholesterol, blood pressure and weight. Regular exercise is a must to help small arteries enlarge, which provides an alternate pathway for blood to flow.
If you are concerned that you may have Peripheral Arterial Disease, I encourage you to come in for a PVD screening. Early detection is the key to handling this potentially serious disease. As I stated earlier, the younger population can be affected as well as the aging.