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

Finding Your Energy Balance

Apr 25, 2014
When it comes to our well-being, it's important to consider how much we put into our bodies and what we need in order to stay healthy.

Some Physical Activity is Better Than None

Apr 24, 2014
Adults engaging in any level of regular physical activity have lower risk of death compared to those who get no exercise, according to research.
CardioSmart News

Stumbling Block in Attempt to Reduce Risk of Complications from Surgery

Apr 15, 2014
Aspirin and blood-pressure lowering medication fail to improve outcomes in surgical patients at risk for heart disease.

Secondhand Smoke Causes Permanent Damage to Children's Arteries

Mar 13, 2014
Exposure to secondhand smoke during childhood ages arteries later in life, study finds.

Sudden Death in College Athletes: Cause for Concern?

Feb 27, 2014
Ten-year study finds risk of sudden cardiac death among college athletes is actually lower than in the general population.

Improving America's Health through Active Transportation

Feb 26, 2014
Partners unite to promote active transportation across the country with new platform called “Safe Routes to Everywhere.”

Devices in Public Places Restart Hearts

Feb 21, 2014
Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) can help minimally trained bystanders save persons experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.

Safety Concerns About Prescription Weight Loss Pills

Feb 20, 2014
Experts are concerned about the safety of two weight loss pills recently approved for use in the United States.

CVS to Stop Selling Cigarettes; Will Others Follow?

Feb 19, 2014
As CVS vows to eliminate cigarette and tobacco sales over the next year, experts hope other pharmacies will follow their lead to help reduce smoking rates nationwide.

Improvements in Heart Patient Safety Among U.S. Hospitals

Feb 07, 2014
Study finds fewer complications among patients hospitalized for heart attack or heart failure between 2005 and 2011.

Anti-Smoking Efforts Saved 8 Million Lives—and Counting

Jan 15, 2014
On the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General’s first report on smoking and health, study finds tobacco control efforts have increased life expectancy and saved millions of American lives.

Multivitamins Fail to Improve Memory in Older Men

Jan 10, 2014
Study findings suggest that daily multivitamins fail to prevent cognitive decline in older adults.

Energy Drinks Increase the Heart's Contraction Rate

Dec 09, 2013
Study suggests that energy drinks may be unsafe for children and individuals with existing heart conditions, like an irregular heartbeat.

Nut Consumption Linked to Longevity

Nov 26, 2013
Study finds that regular consumption of nuts could lower risk of death by as much as 20%.
CardioSmart News

It's Easier to Lose Weight with Family and Friends, Study Finds

Nov 25, 2013
Weight loss interventions in social networks are more effective than standard care.
CardioSmart News

Preschoolers Learn Heart-Healthy Lessons with 'Sesame Street'

Nov 25, 2013
Study finds heart-health messages in “Sesame Street” promote healthier behavior in preschool children.

Registry Programs Improve Quality of Care and Outcomes

Nov 18, 2013
Lessons learned from the American Heart Association’s “Get With The Guidelines” program.

Sudden Cardiac Death Rare in Women

Nov 13, 2013
Study finds that sports-related sudden cardiac death is much lower in women compared to men.

FDA Targets Trans Fat in Processed Foods

Nov 07, 2013
The FDA has issued a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils—the major dietary source of trans fat in processed food—are no longer "generally recognized as safe."

Peripheral Artery Disease: A Global Problem

Nov 06, 2013
Recent study estimates the worldwide impact of PAD in low, middle and high-income countries.

Take Our "Thanks for Quitting" Challenge

Nov 01, 2013
CardioSmart's "Thanks for Quitting" Challenge is here to help you become smoke-free on or after the Great American Smokeout on Nov. 21.

Flu Shot Curbs Cardiovascular Risk

Oct 23, 2013
The seasonal flu shot is life-saving for patients at high risk for heart disease.

A Healthy Heart in Your Golden Years

Sep 27, 2013
CardioSmart Editor-in-Chief JoAnne Foody writes about a few key steps that we should all take to boost heart health.

Tour de France Riders Live Longer, Study Finds

Sep 24, 2013
Elite cyclists live longer and have lower risk of death compared to average adults.

Registry Program Sheds Light on Quality of Care

Sep 23, 2013
A report on data from the National Cardiovascular Data Registry highlights success stories and areas of improvement in cardiovascular care.

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.