Peripheral Vascular Disease Also called: PVD

When PVD specifically affects the arteries, it's called peripheral arterial disease.

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) refers to diseases and disorders of the blood vessels outside of the heart, such as those of the brain, gut, kidneys, or limbs. PVD is typically caused by blockage or damage to blood vessels such as veins and arteries.

Think of your body’s circulation like the plumbing in your house: pipes bring water in and take water away. When your heart pumps, blood moves through pipes called arteries to supply all of your organs and limbs. From there, blood returns to the heart in pipes called veins and lymphatic vessels. Each of these vessels can develop its own set of problems. 

Over time, arteries can build up with cholesterol plaques and narrow. This can happen to arteries anywhere in the body, for example: 

  • In the neck arteries that supply the brain, it can cause a mini stroke or a stroke.
  • In the arteries to the arms, it may cause fatigue or tiredness in one arm more than the other, or result in a difference in blood pressure between the arms.
  • In the heart’s arteries, it may cause shortness of breath, pressure in your chest, arms, neck, back or stomach (in women, the symptoms may be less specific like fatigue or nausea).
  • In the arteries to your kidneys, it may cause your blood pressure to be poorly controlled (sometimes suddenly), or may lead to deteriorating kidney function. 
  • In the aorta, which is the main artery which supplies all organs and limbs, it may contribute to  weakening of the wall and formation of an aneurysm, the danger of which is a rupture.
  • In the arteries to your legs, it may cause you to start walking slowly and have difficulty keeping up from fatigue, weakness, or discomfort/cramping.

Test Your Knowledge: Take our quiz on peripheral arterial disease (PAD) after you read about the condition!

Your veins move blood back to the heart. While veins don’t develop cholesterol build-up, they do develop a very common disease in the legs. To facilitate the movement of blood from the legs to your heart, your veins have valves that allow the blood to flow up to the heart. In some people, these valves may stop working, resulting in blood flowing backward, which is called venous insufficiency.  

Symptoms of this disease may include: 

  • Fatigue or heaviness in the legs, especially at the end of day
  • Swelling of ankles
  • Cramps at night time
  • Itching of skin
  • Restless legs
  • Pigmentation of skin below the knee
  • Formation of visible veins on the legs and sores above the ankle that don’t heal quickly

Peripheral Vascular Disease News & Events

Enter the "I am CardioSmart" Contest

Oct 17, 2016

Tell us how you are living well with heart disease for a chance to win a trip for two to Washington, D.C., in March 2017!

ACC Partners with Google to Share Reliable Heart Health Information

Sep 20, 2016
“Ask a Doctor” feature promotes patient-provider engagement.

The Importance of Promoting Heart Health in Children

Sep 17, 2016
Experts highlight early education about heart health for prevention later in life.
CardioSmart News

Virtual Health Programs Could Improve Global Health

May 22, 2016
An online challenge promotes physical activity and weight loss in over 60 countries.

Heart Disease Burden Has Shifted to Southern U.S. States

May 04, 2016

The highest death rates from heart disease have shifted to the South since the 1970s.

Decline in Dementia Rates Over Past Three Decades

Mar 08, 2016

Study analyzed data on trends in older adults in the Framingham Heart Study.

Texting Programs Improve Medication Adherence in Patients with Chronic Disease

Feb 26, 2016
A recent study suggests that text messaging programs double the odds of medication adherence in adults with chronic disease.

Too Little Exercise Remains a Prime Concern for Americans

Jan 18, 2016
Experts reaffirm that health benefits from exercise far outweigh risks.

Cardiac Rehab is Lifesaving for Heart Patients

Jan 10, 2016

Exercise-based rehab programs reduce risk for heart-related death by 26%.

Heart Disease Remains Top Killer in the United States

Jan 10, 2016

Heart disease accounts for 1 in 3 deaths, highlighting an urgent need for prevention and treatment.

Declines in U.S. Death Rates Have Slowed

Nov 19, 2015
Researchers measure progress on heart disease and other leading causes of death, and identify areas for improvement.

Low-Fat Diets Not the Best Weight Loss Solution

Nov 19, 2015

A review of more than 50 clinical trials comparing low- versus higher-fat diets shows no significant difference in weight loss results.

African-American Veterans Healthier Than White Counterparts

Oct 22, 2015

Analysis of VA data stands in contrast to health disparities in the general U.S. population.

Music Boosts Heart Health

Oct 13, 2015
Music’s effect on heart activity, blood pressure and breathing bodes well for health.

A Healthy Lifestyle in Midlife Makes for Healthier Golden Years

Oct 13, 2015

The benefits of healthy choices carry long into older adulthood.

Longer, But Not Necessarily Healthier, Lives

Sep 25, 2015
While life expectancy continues to rise, heart disease becomes the leading cause of disability around the world.

Deep Belly Fat Increases Cardiovascular Risk

Sep 18, 2015
Study finds that both volume and type of belly fat have an impact on heart health.

Age and Gender Differences in Heart Disease Mortality Rates

Sep 17, 2015
Despite recent drops in cardiovascular mortality rates, death toll among young adults remains high.

Economic and Social Forces Have Big Impact on Heart Health

Aug 21, 2015
The American Heart Association has issued a scientific statement addressing social factors that influence risk for heart disease.

Chocolate Protects Against Heart Disease and Stroke

Jul 01, 2015
Moderate chocolate consumption helps, not harms, cardiovascular health.

Action, Not Advice, Helps Smokers Quit

Jun 25, 2015
Creating a quit plan and providing tools for ongoing support is more effective than education alone in helping smokers quit.

Cash Incentives Help Smokers Quit

Jun 03, 2015
Rewards-based programs are much more appealing than deposit-based programs, which require smokers to risk their own money.

Mediterranean Diet Improves Memory and Brain Function

May 26, 2015
A diet rich in olive oil and nuts may improve brain function and reduce risk for dementia.

A National Plan to Get America Moving

May 11, 2015

Proposed changes to our physical and social environments encourage regular physical activity for Americans throughout the course of the day.

Is There an Exercise 'Sweet Spot' for Longer Life?

Apr 23, 2015
Two large-scale studies take a close look at meeting or exceeding current exercise guidelines, but one thing is clear: Any physical activity is far better than none.

Featured Video

Symptoms of PAD include pain or numbness, difficulty walking, sores on the feet or legs, and erectile dysfunction.

Walking & PAD

A walking program can be beneficial for patients with peripheral arterial disease. Learn more »

Patient Resource