FAQs: Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)
Frequently Asked Questions About Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)

Q. What is Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)?

A. Peripheral vascular disease, or PVD, is a condition in which the arteries that carry blood
to the arms or legs become narrowed or clogged, slowing or stopping the flow of blood.

Q. What are the common symptoms of PVD?

A. The most common symptom of PVD is pain in the leg, particularly when walking. Other
symptoms may include numbness, tingling, and weakness in your leg. In severe cases,
patients may develop an ulcer, or sore, on the leg or foot that doesn't heal. If left
untreated, ulcers can become infected. In extreme cases, untreated PVD can lead to
gangrene, a serious condition that may require amputation of a leg or foot.

Q. What the common causes of PVD?

A. PVD is caused by atherosclerosis, or hardening or the arteries. Atherosclerosis is a
gradual process in which cholesterol and scar tissue build up inside the artery, forming a
substance called "plaque" that clogs the artery. PVD symptoms also can develop when a
blood clot forms in the artery.

It is not known for certain why PVD occurs. Factors that contribute to the disease include
smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, a family history of heart or
vascular disease, or being overweight.

Q. What can be done to stop the progression of PVD?

A. In some cases, PVD can be successfully controlled by certain lifestyle changes, such as
exercise programs and dieting to lose weight and lower blood cholesterol. The single
most important thing you can do to slow PVD is to stop smoking.

Q. How is PVD treated?

A. When lifestyle changes alone are not enough to control symptoms of PVD, there are a
number of treatment options, including:

Angioplasty. In this procedure, a very small balloon attached to a thin tube (catheter) is
inserted into a blood vessel through a small nick in the skin, The catheter is threaded
under x-ray guidance to the site of the blocked artery. The balloon is inflated to open the
artery. In some cases, a tiny metal cylinder, or stent, is left behind in the artery to keep it

Thrombolytic therapy. This treatment is used if the blockage in the artery is caused by a
blood clot. Thrombolytic drugs - sometimes called clot-busting drugs - dissolve the clot
and restore blood flow. Usually, the drugs are administered through a catheter directly
into the clot. These drugs are frequently combined with another treatment, such as

Bypass grafts. In this procedure, a vein graft from another part of the body or a graft
made from artificial material is used to create a detour around the blocked artery. Bypass
grafts typically require surgery, but other ways of placing the grafts without major
surgery are now being developed.

Thrombectomy. This procedure is used only when symptoms of PDV develop suddenly as
the result of a blood clot. In the technique, a balloon catheter is inserted into the affected
artery beyond the clot. The balloon is inflated and pulled back, bringing the clot with it.
Thrombectomy usually is performed as an
open surgical procedure.

Q. How do I know which treatment will be best for me?

A. The best treatment for PVD depends on a number of factors, including your overall
health, the location of the affected artery, and the size and nature of the blockage or
narrowing in the artery.
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