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

Weight Watchers and Atkins Equally as Effective

Sep 05, 2014
There’s little difference between trademarked diet programs, finds new study.

Less Educated Smokers Have Greatest Stroke Risk

Sep 05, 2014
Traditional risk factors for stroke are especially dangerous in poorly educated adults, finds study.

Coca-Cola Family Track Walk in Richmond, VA

Aug 29, 2014
A fellow of the American College of Cardiology will be at Richmond International Raceway on Sept. 6 to share tips on heart health and the benefits of an active lifestyle.

Heart Group Says E-Cigarettes Require Strict Regulation

Aug 28, 2014
Electronic cigarettes should be included in smoke-free air laws, according to the American Heart Association.

Folic Acid Deficiency Rare in U.S.

Aug 19, 2014
Study finds folic acid deficiency is extremely rare, making routine tests unnecessary in the general population.

All-in-One Pill to Prevent Heart Disease?

Aug 08, 2014
A polypill to prevent heart disease has the potential to save millions of lives, according to experts.

Staying Active and Reducing Sedentary Time Key to Combating Obesity

Aug 08, 2014
Study finds that increasing physical activity and limiting sedentary time is the best combination for obesity prevention.

Sitting Too Much Diminishes Fitness Level

Aug 08, 2014
No matter how much you may exercise, sitting for long periods of time reduces fitness, finds study.

Reducing Risk of Heart Complications During Surgery

Aug 01, 2014
New guidelines help doctors and patients make the best possible decisions related to non-cardiac surgery.

Reducing Health Disparities in Hispanics and Latinos

Jul 31, 2014
Hispanics in the U.S. face dramatic health disparities, according to a recently-released statement.

Short Runs May Help Adults Live Longer, Healthier Lives

Jul 29, 2014
According to a recent study, running just 5-10 minutes a day could have significant health benefits.

Minding Your Portions

Jul 28, 2014
Committing to a heart-healthy diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke or repeat events. This includes watching what you put on your plate.

Heat Stroke, Not Sudden Cardiac Death, is Top Threat for Marathon Runners

Jul 28, 2014
Long distance running involves a slightly increased risk of death, with heat stroke being the main cause, finds study.

Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women Encouraged to Increase Seafood Consumption

Jun 24, 2014
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency recently updated guidelines regarding seafood consumption for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

E-cigarettes Can Help Smokers Quit

Jun 23, 2014
E-cigarettes are as effective as the patch in helping smokers quit, finds study.

Heart Events Worsen Outcomes for Patients with Chronic Kidney Disease

Jun 23, 2014

Study highlights importance of heart disease prevention for patients with chronic kidney disease.

Are Diet Drinks on Par with Water for Losing Weight?

Jun 13, 2014
According to a new study, diet beverages could help people lose more weight than drinking water alone.

Phone-Based Support Helps Heart Patients with Depression

Jun 12, 2014
Researchers develop simple, cost-effective treatment for heart patients diagnosed with depression or anxiety.

Spirit of the Heart in South Bronx, NY

Jun 07, 2014
Spirit of the Heart events offer heart disease screening and events in underserved communities.

Web-Based Program Helps Patients Improve Heart Health

Jun 05, 2014
Not only do Web-based programs help patients lower risk for heart disease, they’re more affordable than traditional counseling, according to study.

Worldwide Obesity Rates 'Startling'

May 30, 2014
Major study finds obesity rates have increased dramatically in all corners of the world over last three decades.

NIH Engages Women in Medical Research

May 29, 2014
The National Institutes of Health has unveiled new policies that will engage women in all phases of medical research.

Reducing Salt Intake, Nationwide

May 22, 2014
Experts identify ways to reduce salt consumption and improve heart health in the United States.

'Exercise Snacking': The Latest Health Trend?

May 14, 2014
Adding small bursts of exercise before meals could bring big health benefits, finds study.

Growing Use of ICDs to Prevent Sudden Cardiac Death

May 09, 2014
More patients may be eligible to receive implantable cardioverter-defibrillators, according to a scientific statement released by the American College of Cardiology Foundation and American Heart Association.

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.