What Is Peripheral Vascular Disease? | Heart Disease


So, what is peripheral vascular disease? Well, first of all, vascular disease refers
to any problem with the vasculature of the body. Those would be the arteries and veins. Peripheral is to distinguish it from two other
vascular beds in the body. The main three vascular beds in the body would
be the cerebral, or vascular bed of the brain, the coronary vascular bed, which feeds the
heart, and then, the vascular bed which feeds everything else, the rest of the body. So vascular disease is really talking about
the disease which affects the vasculature of the rest of the body, from the most part,
our lower extremities and legs. It can be caused by a lot of the same things
that cause the cerebral vascular disease or the coronary vascular disease. That would be the buildup of cholesterol plaque
within those arteries. For the most part, they have a lot of the
same risk factors as the cerebral and coronary vascular disease does. That would be smoking, lack of exercise, increased
blood pressure and cholesterol. For peripheral vascular disease, however,
smoking, plays a large factor. So, how do you know if you have peripheral
vascular disease? Oftentimes, you can note that in one of two
ways. One would be lower extremity cramping or pain,
which we call claudication with walking. Another way may be to see that the signs of
decreased blood flow to the legs or feet. That would be cold or cool feet, or hair loss
on the lower extremities, or a change in color of the feet or toes. The most common symptom would be claudication,
which is a leg cramping during walking. The best thing to do would be to see your
doctor. Your doctor can order a pretty simple test,
which we call a lower extremity vascular study or a peripheral artery study. The test starts off with something called
an ankle brachial index, which is just a simple measure of the blood pressure difference between
the arms, or upper extremity, and the legs. It can be done with a simple 15 minute in-office
procedure. It’s pretty painless and will tell the doctor
right away if there’s any problems with the vasculature in your legs. So, how do we treat peripheral artery disease? It would be going back to the basic lifestyle
modifications; stopping smoking, reducing your blood pressure, and treating high cholesterol. Another very important way we treat peripheral
artery disease would be to increase the amount of exercise that you do. And that’s the basic things you need to know
about peripheral artery disease.

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