What is Peripheral Vascular Disease?

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) involves damage to or blockage in the blood vessels distant from your heart, the peripheral arteries and veins. The peripheral arteries and veins carry blood to and from arm and leg muscles plus the organs in and below the stomach area. PVD may also affect the arteries leading to your head. The main forms PVD may take include blood clots, swelling (inflammation), or narrowing and blockage of the blood vessels.

Diseases of the arteries may lead to Arterial Blockage, Aortic aneurysms, Buerger’s Disease and Raynaud’s’s phenomenon.
Disease of the veins may lead to Venous Blood Clots, Pulmonary embolism, Phlebitis or Varicose veins.

Arterial Blockage – similar to the coronary arteries, the peripheral arteries can become blocked by plaque.

What causes arterial blockage? PVD can result from a condition known as atherosclerosis (a waxy substance forms inside of the arteries). This substance is called plaque. It is made of cholesterol, fats, calcium, and a blood-clotting material called fibrin.
When enough plaque builds up on the inside of an artery, the artery becomes clogged, and then blood flow is either slowed or stopped. The slowed blood flow may cause “ischemia,” which means the body’s cells are not getting enough oxygen.

While clogged coronary arteries (arteries supplying the heart with blood) may lead to a
heart attack, and clogged carotid arteries (arteries supply the head with blood) may lead to a stroke. Clogged peripheral arteries in the lower part mostly cause pain and cramping in the legs.

The risk factors for atherosclerosis in the peripheral arteries are the same as those for atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries. Smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are believed to lead to the development of plaque.
Patients may feel pain in their calves, thighs, or buttocks, depending on where the blockage is. Usually, the amount of pain felt is a sign of how severe the blockage is.
For any chest pain it is wise to see your doctor.

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