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Peripheral Vascular Disease

Causes of Peripheral Vascular Disease continued...

Other causes of PVD include: 

  • Blood clots: A blood clot can block a blood vessel.
  • Diabetes: The high blood sugar level present with diabetes can, over time, damage blood vessels. This makes them more likely to become narrow or to weaken. People with diabetes often also have high blood pressure and a high level of fats in the blood. Both conditions can accelerate the development of atherosclerosis.
  • Inflammation of the arteries or arteritis: Arteritis can cause narrowing or weakening of the arteries. Some autoimmune conditions lead to vasculitis. The inflammation can affect not just arteries, but other organ systems too.
  • Infection: The inflammation and scarring caused by infection can block, narrow, or weaken blood vessels. Both salmonellosis (infection with Salmonella bacteria) and syphilis are two infections traditionally known to infect and damage blood vessels.
  • Structural defects: Defects in the structure of a blood vessel can cause narrowing. Most of these are acquired at birth, and the cause is unknown. Takayasu disease is a vascular disease that affects the upper vessels of the body. It occurs usually among females of Asian origin.
  • Injury: Blood vessels can be injured in an accident such as a car wreck or a bad fall.

Risk factors for peripheral vascular disease include:

  • Family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or stroke
  • Older than 50 years
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Inactive (sedentary) lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol or LDL (the “bad cholesterol”), plus high triglycerides and low HDL (the “good cholesterol”)

People who have coronary heart disease or a history of heart attack or stroke generally also have an increased frequency of having PVD.

Peripheral Vascular Disease Symptoms

Only about 60% of the individuals with peripheral vascular disease have symptoms. Almost always, symptoms are caused by the leg muscles not getting enough blood. Whether you have symptoms depends partly on which artery is affected and to what extent blood flow is restricted. 

The most common symptom of PVD in the legs is pain that comes and goes in one or both calves, thighs, or hips. The pain usually occurs while you are walking or climbing stairs and stops when you rest. It is usually a dull, cramping pain. It may also feel like a heaviness, tightness, or tiredness in the muscles of the legs. 

When blood vessels in the legs are completely blocked, leg pain at night is typical.

Other symptoms of PVD include:

  • Buttock pain
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs
  • Burning or aching pain in the feet or toes while resting
  • A sore on a leg or a foot that will not heal
  • One or both legs or feet feeling cold or changing color (pale, bluish, dark reddish)
  • Loss of hair on the legs
  • Impotence

Having symptoms while at rest is a sign of more severe disease.

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

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