What is peripheral vascular disease?

What is peripheral vascular disease?

Are you 50 years old or older and have a history of heart disease? Experts say knowing your risk for peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is important.

PVD is when someone has clogged leg arteries, which can greatly increase a person’s risk of heart attack, stroke, amputation and death.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is type of PVD caused by fatty buildups in the inner walls of arteries, which then block normal blood flow.

People who are mostly at risk for the disease include men, diabetics, postmenopausal women, or people with a family history of high cholesterol or high blood pressure.

Lifestyle changes can usually improve symptoms or keep them from getting worse, but in some people, those changes and medications aren’t enough.

Dr. Maciej Malinski, a cardiologist at the Advocate Heart Institute at Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill., explains more about the disease, symptoms and treatment methods:

What is PVD and the symptoms?

PVD is a disease involving all vessels of the human body except the heart vessels. It’s a term that is used to describe a disease of the arteries (vessels delivering blood high in oxygen content from the heart to the body), and a disease of the veins (vessels deliver blood low in oxygen content from the body back to the heart.)

The symptoms depend on the organ that is affected by the problems with delivery or return of the blood. If the narrowing is in the artery supplying the flow to the brain, the patient may have a stroke. If the problem is with the blood clots in the veins of the lungs, the symptoms will be extreme shortness of breath. If there is a problem with the blood flow in the leg veins, the patient may have leg pain, swelling, varicose veins or even non-healing wounds.

What is PAD and the symptoms?

PAD refers to a disease involving arteries supplying blood to the brain, kidneys, intestines or limbs. Most commonly, we use it in reference to a disease affecting vessels supplying blood to the legs.

If the artery supplying the blood to the leg has narrowing, the patient will have leg pain while walking very frequently, limiting physical activity. If leg arteries are severely affected, it can lead to problems with non-healing wounds, infections and in extreme cases, loss of toes or even a leg.

If not properly treated, what can PVD and PAD lead to as it relates to the heart?

We use different terms depending on the organ that is affected by narrowing in the artery supply the blood. If the artery is in the heart, we call it coronary artery disease. If it is in the neck or brain, we call is cerebrovascular disease, and if it is in the leg, we call it peripheral artery disease. Disease in the main vessel of the body (the aorta) is called an aneurysm.

Generally, it is the same disease process affecting arteries in different parts of the body. Having the disease in any artery generally increases the risk of having the disease in the artery of the heart. Most patients with PVD/PAD at some point will have a screening test to exclude the possibility of coronary artery disease. Also, because the disease process is the same, some medical treatments will be the same (taking aspirin to prevent blood clots, lowering cholesterol to prevent or slow down the growth of the plaque narrowing the artery).

What is the lumivascular approach to treating PVD and PAD, and how can it benefit patients?

We use the term endovascular to describe therapies of the diseases in the vessels (arteries or veins). Treatment devices can also be inserted through a small puncture of the skin, thus minimizing disruption to the native vessel.

Some common procedures also include angiograms, balloon angioplasties and stenting. Usually these procedures rely on the use of dye and radiation to visualize the vessel. If using different imaging modalities such as ultrasound or light, we call it the lumivascular approach.

These are new technologies improving our ability to see different structures of the vessel, which also reduce radiation.

Do you know your risk for heart disease? Take Advocate Heart Institute’s heart risk assessment here. If you are at high risk, see one of Advocate Heart Institute’s cardiologists within 24 hours.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.