What is peripheral vascular disease?

Peripheral vascular disease is a condition in which the blood vessels in the lower extremities (feet, legs, or thighs) are narrowed, restricting blood flow. Peripheral vascular disease is primarily caused by atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in blood vessels.

Individuals with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or advanced age, or those who smoke or are inactive, are at risk for developing peripheral vascular disease. Approximately eight to 12 million people in the United States have peripheral vascular disease (Source: NHLBI).

Often, lifestyle modifications, including a healthy diet and regular exercise, can successfully treat peripheral vascular disease. Depending on the severity and underlying cause, your health care provider may also recommend medications or minimally invasive procedures to manage your symptoms and stop the progression of atherosclerosis.

Although life-threatening complications of peripheral vascular disease are rare, individuals with peripheral arterial disease due to atherosclerosis may also be at risk for heart attack or stroke. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you experience shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest area, severe or sudden headache, or difficulty walking, or if you think you may be having a heart attack or stroke.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for peripheral vascular disease but have mild symptoms that recur or are persistent.


What are the symptoms of peripheral vascular disease?

Individuals with mild peripheral vascular disease may experience no symptoms. Those with moderate or severe blood vessel blockages often experience symptoms that are the result of restricted blood flow to the lower extremities.... Read more about peripheral vascular diseasesymptoms


What causes peripheral vascular disease?

The primary cause of peripheral vascular disease is atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the buildup of plaque (consisting mostly of fat and cholesterol) in blood vessels.... Read more about peripheral vascular diseasecauses


How is peripheral vascular disease treated?

Treatment of peripheral vascular disease has two main aims. The first aim is to manage symptoms so that you can return to your normal activity level. The second aim of treatment is to limit or completely stop the progression of atherosclerosis.... Read more about peripheral vascular diseasetreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: Copyright:

This Article is Filed Under: Heart, Blood and Circulation, Diabetes, Cholesterol