Q: What is peripheral vascular disease?
Peripheral vascular disease, or PVD, is a condition in
which the arteries that carry blood to the arms or legs
become narrowed or clogged. This interferes with the
normal flow of blood, sometimes causing pain but often
causing no symptoms at all.
The most common cause of PVD is atherosclerosis
(often called hardening of the arteries). Atherosclerosis
is a gradual process in which cholesterol and scar
tissue build up, forming a substance called "plaque" that
clogs the blood vessels. In some cases, PVD may be
caused by blood clots that lodge in the arteries and
restrict blood flow.
|Q. How common is PVD?
PVD affects about 1 in 20 people over the age of 50, or 10 million people in
the United States. More than half the people with PVD experience leg pain,
numbness or other symptoms ó but many people dismiss these signs as "a
normal part of aging" and
donít seek medical help. Only about half of those with symptoms have been
diagnosed with PVD and are seeing a doctor for treatment..
|Q. What are the symptoms of PVD?
The most common symptom of PVD is painful cramping in the leg or hip,
particularly when walking. This symptom, also known as "claudication,"
occurs when there is not enough blood flowing to the leg muscles during
exercise. The pain typically goes away
when the muscles are given a rest.
Other symptoms may include numbness, tingling or weakness in the leg. In severe
cases, you may
experience a burning or aching pain in your foot or toes while resting, or
develop a sore on your leg or foot that does not heal. People with PVD also may
experience a cooling or color change in the skin of the legs or feet, or loss of
hair on the legs. In extreme
cases, untreated PVD can lead to gangrene, a serious condition that may require
amputation of a leg, foot or toes. If you have PVD, you are also at higher risk
for heart disease and stroke. Unfortunately, the disease often goes undiagnosed
because many people do not experience symptoms in the early stages of PVD or
they mistakenly think the symptoms
are a normal part of aging.
|Q. Who is at risk for PVD?
As many as 8 million people in the U.S. may have PVD. The disease affects
everyone, although men are somewhat more likely than women to have PVD.
Those who are at highest risk are:
- over the age of 50
- people who do not exercise, or
- people who have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
- A family history of heart or vascular disease may also put you at
higher risk for PVD.
Incidence of Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)
- PVD affects 10 million people in the United States
including 5% of the over 50 population
- Only a quarter of PVD sufferers are receiving treatment
- Symptomatic constitues 50% of cases (5 million)
Of these, 2.5 million go undiagnosed
- Of the 2.5 million diagnosed cases, 2.1 million are
medically managed (e.g.
Leg or hip pain during
The pain stops when you rest
Numbness, tingling or
weakness in the legs
Burning or aching pain in feet or toes
Sore on leg or foot that wonít heal
Cold legs or feet
Color change in skin of legs or feet
Loss of hair on legs