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Lower extremity peripheral vascular disease, also known as peripheral vascular disease (PVD), results from blockages in the arteries that restrict blood flow to your limbs. The disease occurs progressively over time so patients may not experience symptoms for several months to a year.
Lower extremity peripheral vascular disease results from blockages in the arteries. These blockages are caused by atherosclerosis, which is primarily related to the following risk factors:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Family history of atherosclerosis, peripheral vascular disease or claudication
Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)/Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) Diagnosis
The disease tends to manifest itself in the following ways:
- You may have blocked arteries with no symptoms.
- You may have blocked arteries with claudication, which is leg pain while walking or exercising. The pain tends to first appear as a cramping in the calf.
- You may have blocked arteries with severe problems. For example, you may experience pain in the feet or legs while at rest, and suffer from debilitating symptoms. This form of the disease can pose a serious health threat to your limbs.
The process of diagnosis may involve the following:
- Pulse volume recording - This measures the volume of blood at various points in your legs.
- Ankle-brachial index - A test that evaluates the circulation in the legs, by comparing blood pressure in the ankle and the arm.
- Duplex ultrasound - This technique combines both conventional ultrasound that shows the structure of the blood vessels with Doppler ultrasound, which allows for measurement of blood flow.
Treatment of Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)/Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)
- Lifestyle Changes - Changes such as smoking cessation, exercise and weight loss will help improve your symptoms.
- Medications - Medications may be prescribed to help improve blood flow and reduce pain while walking. In addition, statins, which help lower cholesterol, may be recommended.
- Surgery - There are two main types of surgery performed for this disease. They include:
- Angioplasty and Stenting - With this minimally invasive procedure, vascular surgeons insert a catheter with a special balloon on the end into the blood vessels. Once in place, the balloon is inflated to widen the damaged artery. The surgeon may place a stent (a tiny wire mesh tube) in the artery to keep it open and allow blood to flow more freely.
- Bypass Surgery - This is an open surgical procedure used to treat claudication and peripheral artery disease . This creates a new pathway for blood to flow around the narrowed or blocked artery in your leg.