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Peripheral Vascular Disease

About Peripheral Vascular Disease

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD), commonly referred to as peripheral artery disease (PAD) or peripheral artery occlusive disease (PAOD) or peripheral obliterative arteriopathy, refers to the obstruction of large arteries not within the coronary, aortic arch vasculature, or brain. PVD can result from atherosclerosis, inflammatory processes leading to stenosis, an embolism, or thrombus formation. It causes either acute or chronic ischemia (lack of blood supply). Often PVD is a term used to refer to atherosclerotic blockages found in the lower extremity.

PVD also includes a subset of diseases classified as microvascular diseases resulting from episodal narrowing of the arteries (Raynaud's phenomenon), or widening thereof (erythromelalgia), i.e. vascular spasms.

Peripheral Vascular Disease Symptoms

About 20% of patients with mild PAD may be asymptomatic; other symptoms include:

  • Claudication—pain, weakness, numbness, or cramping in muscles due to decreased blood flow
  • Sores, wounds, or ulcers that heal slowly or not at all
  • Noticeable change in color (blueness or paleness) or temperature (coolness) when compared to the other limb (termed unilateral dependent rubor; when both limbs are affected this is termed bilateral dependent rubor)
  • Diminished hair and nail growth on affected limb and digits

Peripheral Vascular Disease Causes

  • Smoking – tobacco use in any form is the single most important modifiable cause of PVD internationally. Smokers have up to a tenfold increase in relative risk for PVD in a dose-related effect. Exposure to second-hand smoke from environmental exposure has also been shown to promote changes in blood vessel lining (endothelium) which is a precursor to atherosclerosis.Smokers are 2 to 3 times more likely to have lower extremity peripheral arterial disease than coronary artery disease. More than 80%-90% of patients with lower extremity peripheral arterial disease are current or former smokers. The risk of PAD increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day and the number of years smoked.
  • Diabetes mellitus - causes between two and four times increased risk of PVD by causing endothelial and smooth muscle cell dysfunction in peripheral arteries. The risk of developing lower extremity peripheral arterial disease is proportional to the severity and duration of diabetes. Diabetics account for up to 70% of nontraumatic amputations performed, and a known diabetic who smokes runs an approximately 30% risk of amputation within 5 years.
  • Dyslipidemia (high low-density lipoprotein [LDL] cholesterol, low high-density lipoprotein [HDL] cholesterol) - elevation of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels each have been correlated with accelerated PAD. Correction of dyslipidemia by diet and/or medication is associated with a major improvement in rates of heart attack and stroke. This benefit is gained even though current evidence does not demonstrate a major reversal of peripheral and/or coronary atherosclerosis.
  • Hypertension - elevated blood pressure is correlated with an increase in the risk of developing PAD, as well as in associated coronary and cerebrovascular events (heart attack and stroke).Hypertension increased the risk of intermittent claudication 2.5- to 4-fold in men and women,respectively.
  • Risk of PAD also increases in individuals who are over the age of 50, male, obese, heart attack, or stroke. or with a family history of vascular disease.
  • Other risk factors which are being studied include levels of various inflammatory mediators such as C-reactive protein,fibrinogen, homocysteine, hyperviscosity, hypercoagulable state.

Peripheral Vascular Disease Testing

A peripheral vascular examination is a medical examination to discover signs of pathology in the peripheral vascular system. It is performed as part of a physical examination, or when a patient presents with leg pain suggestive of a cardiovascular pathology.