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

CardioSmart News

Angioplasty for Patients with Chronic Blockages Underutilized

Feb 17, 2015
Researchers in an almost 4-year study found that angioplasty for patients with chronic blockages made up only 3.8% of the total number of angioplasties performed for stable heart disease.

Survey: 1 in 3 Americans Prefers Shorter Life to Daily Pill

Feb 06, 2015

Researchers explore the uptake of a preventive heart disease medicine.

Running for Health? Moderation is Key

Feb 02, 2015

You don’t have to be a marathon runner to reap full benefits, according to a new study.

Study Questions Strict Sodium Guidelines for Older Adults

Jan 28, 2015

Reducing sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg a day may be excessive for older adults.

Ability to Process Nicotine Linked to Efficacy of Patch vs. Pill

Jan 26, 2015
How quickly smokers metabolize nicotine may impact whether the nicotine patch or Chantix works best, finds study.

Experts Emphasize the Importance of Cardiac Rehabilitation

Jan 26, 2015
Despite its value and importance, cardiac rehab is vastly underutilized by patients.
CardioSmart News

Physician Sleep Deprivation Has No Significant Effect on Angioplasty Outcomes

Jan 20, 2015
According to a new study, patients undergoing angioplasty performed by a sleep-deprived doctor fared about the same as those whose doctor was rested.

Report Raises Awareness for Health Effects of Air Pollution

Dec 23, 2014
A thorough review of studies highlights the negative impact of air pollution on heart health.

Daily Aspirin Fails to Prevent Heart Attack, Stroke in Older Adults Free of Heart Disease

Dec 23, 2014
A large Japanese study finds no association between once-daily, low-dose aspirin and risk for heart attack, stroke or death in older adults.

Promising Global Trends in Survival Rates of Life-Threatening Conditions

Dec 05, 2014
Better management of cardiovascular risk factors has reduced mortality associated with thoracic aortic aneurysm and aortic dissection, finds study.

Keeping Added Calories in Check: Sugars and Sweeteners

Dec 03, 2014
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans today consume nearly 20% more added sugar in their daily diet than they did 40 years ago.

Risks and Benefits of Extending Drug Treatment After Stent

Nov 20, 2014
Lengthening anti-clotting treatment after stent implantation may prevent heart attacks but increases risk of bleeding, finds new study.

Head-to-Head Comparison of Big-Name diets

Nov 19, 2014
No single big-name diet is superior when it comes to long-term weight loss, finds study.

Exposure to Secondhand Smoke Overlooked in Heart Patients

Nov 18, 2014
Secondhand smoke worsens outcomes for patients living with heart disease, but is often overlooked.

Lupus Linked to Congenital Heart Defects

Nov 13, 2014
Study finds that women with lupus are almost 3 times more likely to have a child with a congenital heart defect.

Study Reveals Paradox of Cigarette Sales in Pharmacies

Oct 31, 2014
Patients at risk of smoking-related diseases often purchase cigarettes at the same pharmacy used to fill prescription medications.

Healthy Fats Lower Cholesterol, Despite Weight Gain

Oct 23, 2014
Healthy fats help offset the negative impact of weight gain on heart health, finds a recent study.

Rapid Weight Loss is Not So Bad, After All

Oct 23, 2014
Gradual vs. rapid weight loss has little impact on long-term weight control.

Childhood Risk Factors Have Lifelong Impact on Heart Health

Oct 10, 2014
Weight and blood pressure during childhood have a long-lasting impact on heart function later in life.

Keeping Radiation to a Minimum for Heart Patients

Oct 10, 2014
With radiation exposure a hot topic in recent years, here are strategies for enhancing radiation safety in heart imaging.

Obesity Rates Plateau in U.S., but Waistlines Continue to Expand

Sep 24, 2014
More than half of American adults have abdominal obesity, according to national trends from the last decade.

Do You Know Your Heart-Health ABC's?

Sep 24, 2014
Improving heart health just got a little bit simpler, thanks to the ABC’s of heart disease prevention.

Self-Management Improves Outcomes for Patients with Heart Valve Implants

Sep 23, 2014
Empowering patients with heart valve implants to manage their own health reduces risk of complications, finds study.

Preventing Sudden Cardiac Death in Young Adults

Sep 19, 2014
A recent scientific statement weighed the pros and cons of using tests in healthy individuals between 12-25 years old.

Aspirin Offers Safe, Affordable Option to Prevent Blood Clots

Sep 12, 2014
A new study confirms that aspirin is a safe and effective treatment for patients with a history of venous thromboembolism.

Infographic: Peripheral Artery Disease

Walking & PAD

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

Featured Video

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