Get Screened for Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)
If you regularly experience muscle pain, cramping or numbness in your legs when walking or climbing stairs, but find that it clears up after a few minutes of rest, it’s possible that you have a condition known as Peripheral Vascular Disease, or PVD. It can also cause similar symptoms in your arms.
PVD is a disease in which narrowed arteries reduce the flow of blood to your limbs. The most common cause of PVD is atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque inside the walls of your arteries. Plaque not only reduces the blood flow. It can also cut the critical supply of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues inside your arms and legs. Blood clots may form on the artery walls, further decreasing the inner size of the blood vessel and block off major arteries.
Besides muscle pain, cramping and numbness, PVD symptoms can also include:
- Coldness in your lower leg or foot, especially when compared with the other side
- Sores on your toes, feet or legs that won’t heal
- A change in the color of your legs
- Hair loss or slower hair growth on your feet and legs
- Slower growth of your toenails
- Shiny skin on your legs
- No pulse or a weak pulse in your legs or feet
- Erectile dysfunction in men
If peripheral artery disease progresses, pain may even occur when you’re at rest or when you’re lying down. It may be intense enough to disrupt sleep. Hanging your legs over the edge of your bed or walking around your room may temporarily relieve the pain.
If you have pain in your arms or legs, numbness, or other symptoms, don’t dismiss them as a normal part of aging. Call your Kelsey-Seybold physician and make an appointment. Even if you don’t have symptoms of PVD, you may need to be screened if you are:
- Over age 65
- Over age 50 and have a history of diabetes or smoking
- Under age 50 and have diabetes and other peripheral artery disease risk factors, such as obesity or high blood pressure
You often can successfully treat PVD through lifestyle changes to control risk factors, including regular exercise, proper nutrition, and quitting smoking. Other treatments include medicines to improve blood flow, such as antiplatelet agents (blood thinners) and medicines that relax the blood vessel walls; vascular surgery —a bypass graft using a blood vessel from another part of the body or a tube made of synthetic material is placed in the area of the blocked or narrowed artery to reroute the blood flow; and Angioplasty — during which your doctor inserts a catheter (long hollow tube) to create a larger opening in an artery to increase blood flow.