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Peripheral Vascular Disease

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Peripheral vascular disease (PVD), also known as peripheral artery disease, is a vascular condition most commonly affecting the feet and legs. PVD is the blockage of a large artery in the body that is not within the vascular structure of the heart, aortic arch or brain. When the arteries that deliver blood to the appendages are blocked the muscles do not get the oxygen necessary to function and can begin to atrophy.


Symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the vascular blockage. Initial symptoms can include:

  • Achiness, burning or pain in the legs when exercising, walking uphill or for long durations
  • Legs or arms that feel numb at rest
  • Skin on the appendages that looks pale or feels cold

As peripheral vascular disease progresses, some symptoms can include:

  • Black sores on the feet or toes
  • Impotence
  • Loss of hair on the affected appendage(s)
  • Painful leg cramps, especially at night
  • Painful tingling in the toes and feet
  • Skin discoloration, typically blue or shiny skin on the legs or arms
  • Sores that do not heal or heal slowly
  • Thickened toenails
  • Weak or absent pulse in the affected appendage(s)


Peripheral vascular disease is caused by the hardening of the arteries from plaque, a condition known as arteriosclerosis. When plaque builds up on the artery walls, they harden and narrow, significantly reducing the amount of blood that can flow. PVD typically co-occurs with other chronic conditions.

  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Hypertension
  • Inflammation, typically caused by infection
  • Injury
  • Smoking


Treatment for peripheral vascular disease depends on the severity of the disease. If caught early, PVD can be managed by better managing diabetes, hypertension or cholesterol along with regular exercise. If diagnosed in later stages a vascular surgeon can recommend the best way to restore blood flow. It is important to seek treatment for peripheral vascular disease if symptoms are present to prevent gangrene. Once the cells in an appendage have died, amputation may be the only option. The surgeons at Cardiac Surgery Associates of Tampa can help avoid amputation if consulted in earlier stages of PVD.


Reducing your risk factors for atherosclerosis and subsequent peripheral vascular disease include:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding chronic disease management
  • Quit smoking
  • Maintain a healthy diet

If you have questions regarding the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of peripheral vascular disease, please contact our office at 813.910.0027 or request an appointment online now.