Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) refers to the narrowing of blood vessels located outside of the heart and brain—typically in the legs and feet. PVD can slow the flow of blood to vital organs, increasing the risk of stroke or even limb amputation.
What is PVD?
A progressive disorder affecting the circulatory system, PVD most often occurs when plaque (fats and cholesterol) accumulate on the walls of the arteries, veins, or lymphatic vessels. These blockages hinder blood flow to the rest of the body and can affect function. If left untreated, PVD can lead to gangrene, limb amputation, heart attack, and stroke.
What Are the Symptoms of PVD?
Though roughly half of all people diagnosed with PVD experience no symptoms, the surest sign of this vascular disorder is painful cramping in the arms or legs during movement and exercise. Known as claudication, such pain in the limbs is caused by decreased blood circulation and goes away during rest periods when muscles require less blood flow.
How We Diagnose PVD
Your Bayhealth physician may use one or more of the following diagnostic procedures to detect PVD.
- Ultrasound: Doppler ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of the heart and blood vessels.
- Magnetic Resonance Angiogram (MRA): Radio wave technology combined with a magnetic field create images of blood vessels.
- Computerized Tomography (CT): X-ray signals of the body are processed by a computer in narrow “slices,” ensuring image accuracy.
Treatment Options for PVD
Your Bayhealth physician may recommend one or more of the following treatment options.
- Medication: Drugs may be prescribed to reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood.
- Lifestyle Changes: Routine exercise and dieting may be recommended to lower cholesterol levels.
- Angioplasty: During this minimally invasive procedure, doctors eliminate the blockage by using a narrow tube (called a catheter) to inflate a balloon inside your artery. This displaces the cholesterol and returns blood flow to normal.
- Stenting: Typically used after an angioplasty, a stent (which resembles a mesh tube) is inserted into the narrowed artery to support or hold it open.