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Peripheral Vascular Disease

Peripheral Vascular Disease: Causes and Treatment

Peripheral vascular disease, also known as peripheral arterial disease, is a circulatory system disorder affecting blood vessels in the lower extremities, most often the limbs. This condition puts you at risk of coronary artery disease while making walking painful and sometimes difficult. Pain in the limbs while walking is called claudication, and it’s among the primary symptoms of peripheral vascular disease. 

What is Claudication?

Claudication is a pain in the limbs (legs or arms) when they are in use due to insufficient blood flow caused by peripheral vascular disease.

Peripheral vascular disease is typically an indication of an accumulation of arterial plaques -- a complication called atherosclerosis -- which causes the arteries to narrow. When the arteries are narrowed, blood flow to the limbs is inhibited, which can cause pain when walking, as well as pain in the arms.

What are the Symptoms of Peripheral Vascular Disease?

Peripheral vascular disease is frequently symptomless, though pain when walking is a common indication.

Claudication-related leg pain is generally felt in one or both calves but can also occur in the thighs, hips, and buttock muscles. Pain can range from mild (pain that is noticeable but tolerable) to severe (pain that makes movement difficult). It is triggered by walking or exercising and ceases when activity stops.

Other symptoms include the following:

  • Numbness in one or both legs
  • Foot or leg coldness
  • Changes in skin color on the legs
  • Sores on the feet or legs that will not heal
  • Hair loss on the legs

If you are experiencing the above symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider for an evaluation.

What Causes Peripheral Vascular Disease?

Peripheral vascular disease is most often caused by atherosclerosis.

High LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol contributes significantly to atherosclerosis. When fatty deposits (plaques) form on the walls of the arteries, blood flow can be significantly restricted.

Atherosclerosis impairs arteries throughout the body. Peripheral vascular disease occurs when it affects arteries that supply blood to the limbs, leading to pain when walking. Over time, insufficient blood flow to the limbs can cause tissue damage and open sores on the limbs. Left untreated, amputation might be necessary.

Who is at Risk for Peripheral Vascular Disease?

Tobacco use or having diabetes significantly raises the risk of peripheral vascular disease. Additional factors that increase risk include the following:

  • Family history of heart disease or stroke
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • High LDL cholesterol
  • Kidney disease
  • Age -- people over the age of 65 are particularly at risk of peripheral vascular disease. However, if you have a family history of heart disease, the risk increases after age 50. 
  • Obesity 
  • People who overuse alcohol

Unaddressed peripheral vascular disease can also increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.

How is Peripheral Vascular Disease Treated?

Your physician might require a non-invasive test such as an ultrasound to confirm peripheral vascular disease.

Once detected, a treatment plan might involve lifestyle modifications and medication.

Certain lifestyle changes can improve symptoms if peripheral vascular disease is diagnosed early. If you smoke, you must quit. Regular exercise is also critically important in disease management. A healthy diet (a low-sodium diet rich in nutrient-dense green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats) is also important.

Medications are also often prescribed to help slow the progression of peripheral vascular disease and may include: 

  • Blood thinners
  • Statins – Cholesterol lowering medicine 
  • Blood sugar control with diet and medicine 
  • Blood pressure medication

A procedure or surgery might be recommended in advanced cases. 

At CardioVascular Health Clinic, we offer comprehensive care for peripheral vascular disease, helping patients improve and preserve their health. If you have concerns about your heart health or would like to schedule an evaluation, please don’t hesitate to contact our helpful representatives to schedule an appointment today.

Patient Resources

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I’m about one month out and things are so much better. At my two week evaluation my symptom score had gone from a 27 to a 7, and I’m sure it’s even better now. That speaks volumes. Now that I’m post recovery, there is no incontinence, I go to the bathroom much less and there are no ED side effects like there are with other procedures. In regard to my quality of life, well, I don’t maintain my life based on my proximity to a bathroom anymore.

Blaine P., M.D.
Professional staff working in a beautiful facility with great doctors who sincerely care about their patients. Without Dr. Schmidt's skill, I would have needed heart bypass surgery instead of a stent. Follow-up has been thorough. I can't recommend them highly enough.
LeAnn H.

Dr. Jim Melton and all the staff are fantastic. He is an excellent surgeon and his team is GREAT!!!! I just had surgery at the surgery center, I have only great things to say about my experience. Without him I really don't think I would be here to write this. If you’re looking for a good cardiovascular team, they are a 5 star for sure.

Susie H.

Dr. Parsons and staff are amazing. He truly listened to me from the consult. Staff showed genuine care for my progress post procedure. I had my follow up appointment today so satisfied with results. Blake made me comfortable from the start. He is an activist for uterine fibroids treatment beyond the standard.

Tamara M.

Professional and caring staff. Dr. Smith is very knowledgeable and shows genuine concern for your personal health. I enjoyed the background music in the procedure room, it really adds to the relaxing atmosphere.

David L.

Dr. John Schrader is the most personable doctor we know. He stays on top of my dads health care and is genuinely concerned about his health. We never leave his office with questions. He answers them all. Even questions we don’t think of. Always professional but never cold or bad bedside manner. In our opinion he is THE BEST around.
Thank you Dr Schrader.

Kathy J.

I came to Dr. Warren by a self referral for mals when it took me 8yrs 50+ doctors and thousands of dollars spent on no answers. My first visit I was scared I was just going to be gaslighted just like the past however I was pleasantly shocked when Dr. Warren immediately believed me. She took the time to review many disk I had brought from past tests. She never once dismissed me and listened to ever word I had to say. She scheduled one last test to confirm the diagnosis then I was scheduled for surgery right away. Surgery was a success and I can’t thank her and her staff enough. Dr. Warren truly saved my life.

Angie W.

Dr. Garner literally saved my life 18 months ago and I've followed him to his new practice with Cardiovascular Health. He explains things so clearly, listens and is just a very nice person. His staff is great, too! I highly recommend!

D Watts

Some of the nicest staff that I have ever dealt with!! They have been so incredibly awesome to my mom!! Would definitely recommend them to anyone!! Thank you so much for being so great with her!!

Christy G.

The staff, the nurses, and Dr. Parsons were all amazing. Everything was simple and went well – very Bravo Zulu (military phrase meaning "well done"). In addition to the great staff at CardioVascular Health Clinic, the facilities were clean and well maintained. I have no complaints about anything. The whole experience was A1. I would recommend Dr. Parsons to anyone. He made a huge impact on my life.

John W.

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