Peripheral vascular disease, or PVD, occurs when circulation to areas outside the heart and brain is reduced. The term peripheral, in healthcare, refers to any structure or bodily function occurring away from the central source. The heart and lungs are the central source in our body, and our arms and legs are the peripheral. The most common causes of peripheral vascular disease are narrowing or hardening of the arteries and veins, which limit the blood flow to the outside areas of the body. If the narrowed areas occur at the knee, everything below it will also be affected and so forth.
Peripheral vascular disease can also affect circulation to organs besides the heart and brain, such as the stomach, intestines, and kidneys. When this happens, tissues are starved from oxygen and do not function properly. If the disease progresses and blood flow is cut off, the tissues will eventually die. The affected organs will fail, creating a medical emergency. PVD can also occur from vascular spasms.
Risk Factors for Peripheral Vascular Disease
According to the Center for Disease Control, 12% to 20% of people ages 60 and over get peripheral arterial disease (PAD), the most common type of PVD. This equates to roughly 8.5 million people. Risk factors for functional PAD without damage include:
- Cold climate
- Excessive and long exposures to vibration, such as tools and machinery
- Prolonged stress
- Certain drugs and medications
The organic form of PVD involves damage to the blood vessels by plaque deposits or thickening of the vessel walls. Risk Factors for this type of PVD include:
- Smoking, causing chronic constriction of blood vessels
- Uncontrolled Diabetes, causing sticky build up within the vessels for blood clots to adhere to
- High cholesterol levels, causing fat deposits within the arteries and veins
- Infections, leading to chronic inflammation of blood vessels
- Major injuries involving blood vessels, leading to structural abnormalities
Increased risk factors for getting the disease also include
- History of blood clots or strokes
- Prior history of heart disease
- Family history of the condition
Signs and Symptoms of PVD.
Symptoms of PVD happen as a result of the lack of oxygen and nutrients to tissues from decreased blood flow. A good example is to describe how it feels when your hand or foot is asleep. Chances are there is pain, numbness, and tingling. The skin may also lose its pink and healthy appearance, and even turn blue from lack of oxygen. Over time you may lose feeling in the area and may not know if you have cut or injured yourself, leading to slow healing and infections. If PVD involves internal organs, you will experience signs and symptoms related to poor organ function.
Lifestyle Changes that Prevent PVD
If you fall into a risk category for PVD, there are several things you can do to help prevent or slow the process of developing the condition: quit smoking, adopt a low fat diet, limit foods high in cholesterol, and manage your blood sugar if you are diabetic.
If you feel that you are at risk, or are developing signs and symptoms of the condition, your Tennessee vein specialists at The Vein Centre can help you find the most appropriate treatment for your situation.