PVD or Peripheral vascular disease is the result of obstruction to peripheral blood vessels, thus cutting off the blood supply causing damage to the tissues. This can occur due to stiffening of the arteries, formation of a clot or a piece of clot coming from some other part of the body or some inflammatory process.
Probability of PVD increases with advancing age, because the arteries become stiff due to aging. This can result in high blood pressure. High blood pressure itself is one of the factors causing and aggravating PVD. PVD is also one of the complications caused due to uncontrolled diabetes mellitus. High lipid levels in the body also lead to PVD.
Dyslipidemia (high levels of harmful and low levels of beneficial cholesterol) affects the blood vessels of the body by accelerating the process of atherosclerosis (deposition of fat in walls of blood vessels).
Lack of exercise and resulting obesity are also responsible for this malady. Smoking and alcohol are very strong factors for accelerating the damage to blood vessels.
Mental and physical stress aggravates the problem caused due to these risk factors.
There may be one or multiple causes in an individual for PVD. Whatever may be the cause, major concern is that the disease is mostly fairly advanced in the body before symptoms appear.
In early stages, there may be pain in the arms or legs while doing some work or walking. Later on, there is pain on taking few steps. As the disease advances a person feels pain even on rest.
This pain may be mild to severe depending on the amount of affect on the blood vessel. Nerves supplying that area may also be damaged leading to burning pain or reduced sensation in those cases.
Gangrene is the terminal stage of the disease, where the blood supply is totally blocked leading to necrosis of tissues. Along with pain, there are associated signs of ischemia (lack of blood supply) on the involved limb.
The external appearance of the affected part becomes shiny due to loss of hair, pulses are diminished and there may be ulcers or wounds on the involved limb due to reduced sensation.
In case of gangrene setting in, the affected part takes on a dirty blue or black color and pulsations are totally absent.
PVD may be associated with coronary artery disease or cerebral stroke, because the underlying causes for both are the same. Clot from the affected artery of a limb may break; pass on through blood to the blood vessels of the heart or brain.
Thus a person may have a pending gangrene and develop heart problems, making life miserable. To compound the problems he or she may suffer from cerebral stroke.
PVD is easily diagnosed by the characteristic tell tale signs of ischemia of a limb. Moreover in early stages there are symptoms like pain on movement. Presence of risk factors gives a clue to the condition.
On suspicion of peripheral vascular disease, color Doppler test shows the level of occlusion and state of blood flow of the blood vessels of the affected limb.
Considering the risks involved, it is better to prevent peripheral vascular disease. Taking a healthy low fat diet with enough physical exercise is very useful in preventing these problems.
There should be at least 30 minutes of exercise, if not daily then a minimum of 3 times a week. Swimming, aerobics, brisk walking, light jogging and yoga are very useful exercises for such kind of conditions, both for prevention and control.
Quitting smoking and alcohol can prevent further aggravation of the disease, but damage done cannot be reversed.
Drugs are available to help in the early stages of the disease but once the stage of impending gangrene or gangrene is reached, nothing can be done to reverse it. Surgery remains the only choice and a necrosed limb has to be amputated.
One should be vigilant enough about PVD and at the earliest sign should prevent further spread of the disease.