Peripheral Vascular Disease refers to the collection of diseases that develops on the arteries/veins found outside the heart. This is the common term referred by doctors to indicate peripheral artery disease. The major artery that supplies blood to vital organs like heart, brain, arms or legs can get either partially or completely blocked due to atherosclerosis. The blood vessel becomes narrow and constricted due to plaque like fatty deposits thereby blocking the oxygenated blood supply to vital organs. Peripheral vascular disease can be caused by diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity. This disease poses potential risk for developing infections in the brain. In rare cases peripheral vascular disease can cause ulcers and gangrene and death of the cells on the arms and legs requiring amputation.
Peripheral vascular disease is caused due to number of factors. Basically the artery of the major blood vessel gets blocked by plaque like deposits causing blockage in the normal blood flow. This occurs due to conditions like prolonged diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, infectious diseases like lupus and old age.
A person above 50 years has increased risk of developing PVD. Inflammation of blood vessels can occur due to connective tissue damage or injury due to accidents or blood clotting disorders. Surgery on the heart can affect the major artery causing damage. Smoking or prolonged use of tobacco or stressful lifestyle can cause damage to the blood vessels causing PVD. Reynaud’s disease can cause arthrosclerosis thus blocking the blood vessel.
Who are at risk?
Old age people, individuals with high cholesterol, with high blood pressure, with diabetes, with family history of arthrosclerosis, with smoking habit and obese people are prone to develop peripheral vascular disease. A person with one or more risk factors given above has increased chances of developing this disease.
Signs and Symptoms :
Most of the time peripheral vascular disease does not produce any symptoms. Some people may have rest pain when there is not enough blood supply to the extremities (arms and legs) even while they are resting. This condition is somewhat serious causing sharp pain on the feet and hands and often pain is felt during night when the person is at complete rest. Another sign of PVD is intermittent claudication. In other words the pain is felt in the form of severe cramps on the legs or arms and the pain becomes worse while doing exercises.
The extent of pain varies according to the extent of blockage inside the artery. Very often claudication pain is felt on the calf muscles of the leg while walking. The pain would subside abruptly once the person begins to rest. For some people the pain becomes intolerable that they have to stop walking or doing exercise. In addition to the above, weakness on the calf muscle, numbness on the legs/hands, changes in the color of the feet, feeling of coldness on the feet, loss of hair on the feet and formation of painful ulcers in the toes are some other symptoms.
The doctor would look for signs of peripheral vascular disease given above. He would look for change of skin color on the feet and hands and check the blood pressure on the limbs. He may order for ultrasound scan of legs or arms to check for the collection of plaque particles or fatty deposits on the artery. CT or MRI scanning is done for more severe cases.
Angiography is done for studying the blood vessels of hands and legs. In this procedure a thin long plastic tube is inserted into the groin and dye is injected into it. The surgeon would monitor the path of the dye which gives the right picture of problematic areas of artery.
The aim of the treatment is to give relief from the pain caused by claudication. The person should be at comfort even while walking or doing exercise. The methods of treatment include medications combined with exercises, angioplasty or surgery. Medications of anti-clotting drugs like statins are prescribed to prevent blood clotting on the extremities. For restoring the normal blood flow on the legs and arms drugs like cilostazol or Trental are given.
Aspirin is given to prevent further blood clots and to prevent heart attack. Usually the doctor starts with low dosage of aspirin and subsequently may increase the power according to the extent of peripheral vascular disease. Anti-platelet drugs are also given after bypass surgery or angioplasty. Warfarin or heparin is effective anti-coagulant drugs to prevent formation of blood clots. For individuals with high blood pressure and high cholesterol statin medications are prescribed. For boosting the physical activity of the person Pletal is given.
In this procedure, a long thin tube called catheter is inserted into the arm or groin. A balloon in deflated condition is sent through it and inflated inside the artery for widening the gap to facilitate normal blood flow. This procedure is effective for dilating the constricted arteries. Local anesthesia is given to the person with mild sedative so that he/she can stay comfort during the entire procedure. Angioplasty is highly recommended treatment for PVD since it does not require surgery. Further the person can get back to his work in a couple of days after angioplasty.
Surgery is done to the person if all methods of treatment are not useful. Bypass surgery is one in which the surgeon will bypass the route that supplies blood to the heart and create graft for facilitating good blood flow. People with lesions inside the artery or blood vessel with number of constrictions in the artery can be corrected by surgical procedure.
Pictures of Peripheral Vascular Disease :
Images, Pics, Pictures and Photos of Peripheral Vascular Disease
Healthy Lifestyle :
The person affected with PVD should make necessary changes in his lifestyle. He should not eat fat rich diet and stick on to diet that helps in lowering the blood cholesterol. Obesity can be reduced by eating balanced diet and doing regular exercise. Smoking can definitely increase the chance of getting heart attack or stroke and hence quitting smoking is the only way to prevent it.
One should follow the instructions of the doctor with respect to diet modifications and lifestyle and take medications as instructed to get maximum benefits. You can get help from physiotherapist for giving suitable exercises to the calf muscles. Exercise programs are effective in controlling claudication and rest pain.