Peripheral vascular disease (PVD), also referred to as Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a common problem of the circulatory system which is characterized by narrowing of the arteries due to plaque formation, thereby, reducing the blood flow to the affected limb. Plaques or atheroma are fatty patches that develop in the lining of the arteries. Initially, the plaques are very small and do not cause any problem. Gradually, the plaque becomes thicker narrowing the arteries.
Symptoms of Peripheral Vascular Disease
Almost half of the people suffering from peripheral vascular disease remain asymptomatic. For people who do experience symptoms, the most common symptom is intermittent cramping in the calf muscles or claudication. It causes muscle pain and cramps in the arms and legs triggered by activities such as walking or exercise, but relieves after rest. Other symptoms of PVD include:
- Numbness or weakness in the legs
- Cold limb extremities as compared to other parts of the body
- Toes, Feet and legs exhibit sores which do not heal
- The color of the skin of the legs changes
- Hair loss or slower hair growth on your feet and legs
- The toe nails also grow slower
- Skin on the legs become shiny
- There is weak or no pulse felt in the legs or feet
- Men can experience erectile dysfunction
When to See a Doctor
If you experience any of the above symptoms, do not attribute it to old age. Immediately seek medical care. In case you do not have any of these symptoms but fall in any of the below categories, contact a doctor if you:
- Age over 70
- Have diabetes or are smoker and above 50 years of age
- Have any risk factors for PVD such as hypertension, obesity or diabetes, even if you are under 50 years of age
Risk Factors for Peripheral Vascular Disease
Certain habits or lifestyle factors can become risk factors for developing Peripheral Vascular Disease:
- Obesity where BMI is over 30, diabetes and hypertension of 140/90 mm Hg or higher
- Smoking, cholesterol levels above 240mg/dl or high level of homocysteine
- Age over 50 years
- Family history of PVD, cardiac disorders or stroke
Medical Treatments for Peripheral Vascular Disease
The treatment for Peripheral Vascular Disease has two main aims. The first is to manage the existing symptoms so as to ensure that the patient can resume physical activities. The second is to stop further deterioration of the atherosclerosis in the body so as to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Statin is a cholesterol-lowering drug which reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Lower high blood pressure
This is done to achieve the target of reducing the systolic blood pressure to 140 mm Hg or less and diastolic blood pressure to 90 mm Hg or less. Systolic is the first or higher value and diastolic is the second or lower value in the blood pressure reading.
Control blood sugar
Doctor should be consulted to determine the ideal blood sugar level and what your goal should be. Steps to achieve these goals should also be discussed with the doctor.
Prevent blood clots
Blood thinning medication or medicines to prevent formation of blood clots like Aspirin or Clopidogrel (Plavix) are sometimes prescribed by the doctor. This is to ensure that a blood clot does not block a narrowed artery and cause tissue death.
Home Remedies for Peripheral Vascular Disease
Small and little changes in everyday life can help to manage the symptoms and bring down the progression of the disease.
1. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
- Quit smoking: One of the most significant risk factor for peripheral vascular disease to develop and worsen is smoking. It constricts and restricts the arteries and one of the most important lifestyle changes you can make is to quit smoking thus avoiding further complications. Aids to quit smoking can also be used to help in quitting after discussing with the doctor.
- Exercise regularly: Doctor can recommend the correct exercise plan for you depending on the condition. It is a very crucial component of lifestyle modification and how far you can walk determines the success of the treatment as well. Exercise regimen helps to increase the muscle condition and its ability to use oxygen effectively.
- Keep a healthy diet: High blood pressure and increased levels of cholesterol contribute to atherosclerosis. Hence, it is important to have a diet that is low in saturated fats and salt.
- Avoid cold medications: Some OTC medications used to treat cold contain pseudoephedrine which cause constriction of blood vessels and increase symptoms of PVD.
2. Take Care of Your Feet
It is very important to look after your feet, especially when you are suffering from diabetes. PVD and diabetes together cause slow and improper healing of sores on the lower extremities. Risk of infection and improper healing is caused due to poor blood circulation in the legs. Few tips to ensure that your feet are well taken care of:
- Wash your feet every day and dry them well. Moisturize the feet well except in between toes, to prevent fungal growth
- Always wear well-fitting shoes and thick, dry socks
- Fungal infections like athlete’s foot etc. should be promptly treated
- Trim your toe nails carefully and consult a doctor if you see any sign of sore or injury on the foot
- Do not walk barefoot
- Ensure that you get calluses, corns and bunions treated by podiatrist
The following video explains more on peripheral vascular disease, such as the disease tests and treatments: