You may think of cardiovascular disease as impacting just the heart, but the truth is that there is a vast vascular network of veins and arteries throughout the body where disease can affect overall health. When blood vessels in the body become blocked or narrowed, blood flow can be obstructed and blood clots can develop into a condition known as peripheral vascular disease (PVD).
If left untreated, PVD can lead to serious life and limb threatening complications. In fact, patients with PVD are up to three times as likely as others to suffer a stroke. They also tend to experience problems such as slow or non-healing wounds, increased rates of infection, pain and restricted mobility.
“Peripheral vascular disease is one of the major causes for ulcers and wounds on the lower extremities,” said Dr. Bose Cheeran, interventional cardiologist at Cardiovascular Institute of the South in New Iberia. “Those with peripheral vascular disease also have an increased risk for developing significant cardiovascular disease.”
The most frightening complication is amputation, in that more than 90 percent of all amputations in America share some connection with PVD. But there’s good news. “Most lower-extremity amputations can be prevented if PVD is properly diagnosed early on and treated,” Dr. Cheeran explained. “Early detection and treatment of PVD can decrease the chance of having chronic pain and wounds.”
PVD can go unnoticed, but some symptoms to look out for include:
- Leg pain with physical activity (claudication)
- Weak pulse in the legs
- Slowed hair growth or hair loss on the legs
- Cold legs and feet
- Changes in skin color
- Muscles that feel numb, weak or heavy
- Thick, opaque nails
“Do not ignore lower extremity pain, tiredness, discoloration or swelling,” said Dr. Cheeran. “It’s important to talk to your doctor if these symptoms arise.”
Those most at risk for PVD are those over 50, with a history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity or smoking.
Learn more about peripheral vascular disease or schedule an appointment with a CIS cardiologist by clicking the link below.