Peripheral Arterial Disease
Peripheral vascular disease (PVD), also referred to as peripheral artery disease, is a common disease which occurs when the blood vessels that supply blood to the limbs and other organs of our body are partially or completely blocked due to plaque build-up, a condition called atherosclerosis. Plaque forms out of the substances present in blood such as fat, cholesterol, calcium and fibrous tissue. These plaque deposits gradually harden and narrow down the arteries. This limits the oxygen-rich blood supply to the various parts of your body. The most commonly affected blood vessels because of PVD are the arteries of the legs.
The common symptoms of peripheral vascular disease include:
- Difficulty in walking
- Pain and muscle cramps in the legs while walking or climbing stairs (intermittent claudication)
- Numbness, weakness or heaviness of the muscles
- Cold sensation of the skin in the legs or feet
- Discoloration of skin, predominantly in the arms or legs
- Sores on the toes and feet, which are difficult to heal
- Burning or aching sensation in the feet and toes
Peripheral vascular disease screening helps in detecting early signs of PVD that can be potentially treated before further deterioration of the condition. Peripheral vascular disease screening involves painless and non-invasive tests, which include:
- A medical and family history
- Medication review
- Leg pain assessment
- Blood pressure reading
- Body fat analysis
- Body mass index
- Cholesterol panel
- Blood glucose estimation
- Lipid profile
- Ankle-brachial index - Ankle-brachial index (ABI) compares blood pressure of your ankle to blood pressure in the arm.
- Doppler ultrasound - This is done to check for a blocked artery, where blood flow through the artery will be determined. It also helps in determining the severity of PVD.
- Treadmill Test - This test is done to gauge the severity of symptoms and to monitor the level of exercise that elicits the symptoms.
- Magnetic Resonance Angiogram : Magnetic resonance angiogram ( MRA) makes use of magnetic and radio waves to produce images of blood vessels. It can detect the location of a blockage in the blood vessel.
- Arteriogram : This test locates the blocked artery. The test involves injection of a dye into your artery, followed by which an X-ray is taken. X-ray shows the location and extent of blockage in the artery.
Peripheral vascular disease screening is very useful in certain high risk groups such as individuals above 55 years of age as they are at high risk of developing atherosclerosis and vascular disease. Other conventional risk factors of developing vascular disease include:
- Diabetes Mellitus
- High blood pressure
- Lack of exercise
- High blood cholesterol
- Family history of atherosclerosis and circulatory problems
In most cases, early stages of peripheral vascular disease can be effectively treated. The treatment for PVD includes lifestyle modifications, medication, or a combination of both. Smoking cessation, diet and nutritional modification and regular exercise also helps in the management of PVD. In severe cases, surgical procedures such as angioplasty or bypass surgery may be considered.