Peripheral Vascular Disease
What is it?
Peripheral vascular disease is a condition of the blood vessels caused by plaque buildup in the arteries, which leads to narrowing and hardening of the vessels. The narrowing leads to decreased blood flow, which can injure nerves and other tissues. Most commonly, this kind of narrowing occurs in the arteries to the legs, but in some patients an artery may be clogged that supplies blood to internal organs as well. These patients run a risk of heart attack, angina or stroke.
Mild atherosclerosis may not present symptoms in adults, but it can lead to a patient not getting enough blood and oxygen to parts of the body (tissue ischemia). Others might experience symptoms of pain, fatigue, or a burning sensation.
Treatment is often needed when you experience severe cramping pain (claudication) in your legs that prevents you from walking even a short distance. Even more serious is when a patient experiences “rest pain” – typically a constant pain that occurs in the foot at night. Some wounds to the feet or legs can also be caused by vascular disease. Multiple interventions are available to improve the circulation to the legs. Treatment can be as simple as performing an angioplasty and placing a stent. More advanced cases may require bypass surgery. These procedures can help patients walk further and even save a limb.