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

COVID-19 symptoms

Coronavirus and Your Heart

May 25, 2020

This video explains the main symptoms of COVID-19 and how the new coronavirus might make existing heart conditions worse.

COVID-19: When to Call 911

COVID-19: When to Call 911

May 08, 2020

Many people around the world are concerned about the new coronavirus. While it is important to protect yourself from infection, heart attacks and strokes do not stop during a pandemic.

videos

COVID-19: Call 911 for Heart Attack or Stroke Symptoms

Apr 23, 2020

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is still important to call 911 if you or someone you know is experiencing warning signs of a heart attack or stroke.

webinar

Coronavirus and People With Heart Conditions: What You Need to Know | Webinar

Apr 06, 2020

In this Mended Hearts webinar, CardioSmart Editor-in-Chief Martha Gulati offers advice on what you can do to protect your heart during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Coronavirus

Heart Patients Warned of Risks from Coronavirus

Mar 13, 2020

People with heart disease seem to be at higher risk of developing serious illness from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Marijuana

Highlighting the Concerns of Marijuana's Effects on the Heart

Feb 07, 2020
Marijuana use is associated with cardiovascular problems and can interfere with common heart medications, according to a review article.

More Research Needed to Achieve Health Equity in Preventive Care

Jan 26, 2020

Experts identify gaps in knowledge about how to put proven services into practice.

Top CardioSmart News Articles of 2019

Dec 18, 2019

This year's most-read patient stories worth a second look.

Diet Soda and Sugary Drinks May Affect Lifespan, Study Finds

Sep 29, 2019
Two or more sodas a day shown to increase risk of death in nearly half a million Europeans.

Consumption of Plant-Based Proteins Could Add Years to Your Life

Sep 17, 2019

Study suggests that we eat plenty of plant-based foods, while limiting red and processed meat.

Not All Plant-Based Foods are Created Equal

Sep 13, 2019
Just because a food is vegetarian does not mean it promotes health and longevity. 

Study Finds Smoking Increases Risk for Peripheral Artery Disease in Blacks

Feb 07, 2019
Smoking cigarettes is strongly linked to reduced blood flow in the limbs, shows study of more than 5,300 black adults.

Top CardioSmart News Articles of 2018

Dec 13, 2018

This year's most read patient summaries worth a second look.

Children Should Avoid Diet Drinks, Advise Experts

Aug 15, 2018

Experts can’t say with certainty that artificially sweetened drinks are safe, based on a recent advisory from the American Heart Association.

Health Literacy is Critical to Heart Disease Prevention

Jun 29, 2018
An American Heart Association statement addresses health literacy as a barrier to heart health. 

Loneliness is Bad for the Heart

Jun 29, 2018
A lack of social support is linked to poorer health outcomes in heart patients.

Moderate Exercise Reduces Risk of Death in Women

Dec 14, 2017
A study of more than 17,000 women links physical activity to a longer, healthier life.

Medication Adherence Remains Challenging for Heart Patients

Dec 12, 2017
Taking medication as directed is critical to improving outcomes.
I am CardioSmart

Enter the "I am CardioSmart" Contest

Oct 31, 2017

Tell us how you are living well with heart disease for a chance to win a $100 gift card!

A Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Helps Keep the Mind Intact

Oct 16, 2017
Experts provide simple yet effective strategies for protecting cognitive health as we age.

Too Much Salt Puts Added Stress on Heart

Aug 17, 2017
A recent study confirms that consuming more than 3,700 mg of sodium daily taxes the heart.

Guidelines Fine-Tune Heart Screenings in Young Athletes

Aug 17, 2017
Refined testing would save health care costs while still detecting serious heart conditions.

Regular Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Reduces Risk of PAD

Jul 07, 2017
Consuming three servings of fruits and vegetables a day significantly reduces risk for peripheral artery disease.

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.

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.