Peripheral vascular disorder

Peripheral Vascular Disease: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Peripheral vascular disease, also known as peripheral artery disease, is a medical condition caused by the narrowing of arteries outside of the heart and brain, usually around the legs and arms.

The narrowing of the arteries limits the flow of blood to the limbs, resulting in shortness of breath, pain, fatigue, a loss of energy, and other symptoms. This condition can be managed through lifestyle changes, medications, and in some cases, surgery.

What Causes Peripheral Vascular Disease?

The primary cause of peripheral vascular disease is atherosclerosis, a condition in which cholesterol deposits form plaques on the walls of the arteries. This plaque buildup causes the arteries to narrow and restricts blood flow.

While people of any age can develop peripheral vascular disease, it is more common in people older than 50. Additionally, people who are at a higher risk of developing atherosclerosis, such as smokers, those with diabetes, and those with a family history of cardiovascular disease, are at an increased risk of developing peripheral vascular disease.

Symptoms of Peripheral Vascular Disease

  • Pain in the legs while walking
  • Pain or cramping in the calves, thighs, buttocks, or hips
  • Aching, tiredness, heaviness, or a burning sensation in the legs
  • Lack of hair growth on feet and legs
  • Loss of colour in the skin
  • Open sores on the legs that will not heal
  • Coldness, numbness, or tingling in the feet
  • Tiredness or breathing difficulties due to exercise
  • Erectile Dysfunction (ED) in men

Treatment of Peripheral Vascular Disease

The treatment of peripheral vascular disease depends on the severity of the narrowing of the arteries. In severe cases, doctors may need to perform a bypass surgery. This involves taking a healthy artery or vein from another part of the body to create another artery that will bypass the blocked blood vessels.

Alternatively, doctors may use a procedure known as angioplasty, which involves inserting a catheter into a blocked artery and inflating a tiny balloon to expand the artery and restore blood flow. In both of these cases, doctors may also insert a stent, which is a tiny mesh tube that provides extra support to the artery.

In milder cases of peripheral vascular disease, the main treatment is lifestyle modifications. These include avoiding smoking, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, managing stress, and controlling blood sugar and cholesterol.

If lifestyle modifications are not enough to manage peripheral vascular disease, doctors may prescribe medications such as blood thinners, antibiotics, cholesterol-lowering medications, or medications to help with symptoms such as pain.