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Peripheral Vascular Disorders

What are peripheral vascular disorders?

Peripheral vascular disorders (PVDs) are conditions where blood does not flow to your limbs as it should because of blocked blood vessels. The blockage is usually caused by atherosclerosis. This is when material, such as cholesterol, sticks to the inside of your blood vessels and makes them narrow.

What increases my risk for PVDs?

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • History of a blood clot, kidney disease, or heart failure
  • Older age
  • Family history of peripheral artery disease, heart disease, or stroke
  • Lack of activity or exercise

What are the signs and symptoms of PVDs?

  • Painful cramps in your hip, thigh, or calf muscles, especially after you walk or climb stairs
  • Burning pain in your hands, fingers, feet, or toes
  • Shiny, tight, cold skin, and uneven hair growth on your skin
  • A change in your skin color
  • Sores on your skin that do not heal
  • Weakness or numbness of your hands or feet

How are PVDs diagnosed?

Your caregiver will ask about your symptoms and examine you. You may need any of the following tests:

  • Blood or urine tests: You may need blood or urine tests to give caregivers information about how your body is working.
  • Ankle brachial index: This test compares the blood pressure in your arms to the blood pressure in your legs. A lower blood pressure in your legs may mean you have blocked blood vessels.
  • Doppler ultrasound: An ultrasound uses sound waves to show pictures of your blood vessels on a monitor. An ultrasound can show narrow or blocked blood vessels.
  • Angiography: This scan uses a computer to take pictures of your blood vessels. An angiography may show blood flow and blockage. You may be given a dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

How are PVDs treated?

  • Medicines:
    • Cholesterol medicine: This medicine helps decrease the amount of cholesterol in your blood.
    • Antiplatelets help prevent blood clots. This medicine makes it more likely for you to bleed or bruise.
    • Vasodilators: These medicines help blood vessels dilate (open wider) and increase your blood flow.
  • Procedures:
    • Angioplasty: A catheter is inserted into your blood vessel and threaded to the blockage. A small balloon is inflated to open the blocked blood vessel. Metal or plastic stents (tubes) may be put in where the artery was blocked to keep it open.
    • Bypass surgery: Caregivers place a new blood vessel near the one that is blocked to replace it. This new vessel may be made of plastic or other material.
    • Reconstructive surgery: Caregivers replace the area of blood vessel that is blocked or narrow. An artificial vessel, or a vessel taken from another part of your body, is used to replace it.

What are the risks of PVDs?

You may have muscles spasms. Your signs and symptoms may return. You may need more than one surgery to treat your PVD. If you have stents put in, they may not work properly. Without treatment, your signs and symptoms will get worse. You may have a heart attack or stroke. This can be life-threatening.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Do not smoke: If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Ask for information about how to stop smoking if you need help.
  • Exercise: Ask about the best exercise plan for you. Walking is a low-impact way to exercise and increase your blood flow. Stop and rest if you have pain in your legs.
  • Care for your feet: It is important to care for your feet when you have PVDs, especially if you also have diabetes. Look closely at your feet every day. Check for cracks or sores. Wash your feet daily with mild soap and dry them well. Do not walk barefoot in case you step on a hard or sharp object.
  • Change your sleep position: You may have pain in your legs or feet when you sleep. Raise the head of your bed 4 inches, or use pillows to prop your upper body higher than your legs. This may help more blood go to your feet, decreasing pain.
  • Protect and cushion your feet and hands: If you have ulcers on your feet, you may need to wear bandages with heel pads. You may also wear foam rubber booties. Hand or foot warmers may decrease pain in your hands or feet.

How can I prevent PVDs?

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods: Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Ask your caregiver how much you should weigh. Ask him to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.
  • Manage your diabetes: Keep your blood sugar level in the correct range . Check your blood sugar level often. Ask caregivers if you should make changes to your diet, exercise, or medications.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • Your signs and symptoms get worse or do not get better, even after treatment.
  • You have a sore or ulcer that is not healing or gets worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have pain in your legs that does not go away with rest.
  • You have dark areas on the skin of your legs.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You have chest pain that feels like squeezing, pressure, fullness, or pain.
  • You have chest pain that lasts for more than a few minutes or returns.
  • You are nauseated and have trouble breathing.
  • You have a cold sweat and feel lightheaded or dizzy.
  • You have weakness or numbness on one side of your arm, leg, or face.
  • You are confused and cannot speak clearly.
  • You cannot see out of one or both of your eyes.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.