Peripheral vascular diseases are disorders that affect blood vessels that aren’t in the heart. The circulatory system is made up of the systemic circulation and pulmonary circulation. The former sends blood everywhere save the lungs, while the pulmonary circulation sends blood between the lungs and the heart. The lungs give oxygen to the blood then sends it back to the heart which pumps it throughout the body.
PVD is further divided into peripheral artery and peripheral vein disease. Peripheral artery disease happens when the arteries that branch out throughout the body become sclerotic. They become narrow or blocked by plaque, a sticky substance made of cholesterol, calcium and fats. Blood clots can form in the veins and can be fatal if large ones break off and migrate to the lungs. This is called deep vein thrombosis. The blood clot that reaches the lung is called a pulmonary embolism.
The signs and symptoms of PVD can be pain in the buttocks and down through the thighs and the calves. The feet of some patients may be cold all the time and they may have a weak pulse in their legs. They may also have cramps in their legs when they walk. The pain worsens if they keep walking and recedes when they rest. This is called intermittent claudication.
A doctor diagnoses PVD by taking into account his or her patients’ symptoms, checking the pulse in their feet and using ultrasound or arteriography. An ultrasound test can show the doctor how the blood is flowing through the patient’s arteries. In an arteriography, the arteries are injected with a dye that will let the doctor see any blockages.
If the blockage isn’t too bad, the patient can make lifestyle changes like losing weight or quitting smoking, exercising and eating a healthier diet. If the blockage is severe, the doctor might need to perform a balloon angioplasty or insert a stent to keep the artery open. A peripheral vascular bypass might also be performed. This lets the blood flow detour around the blocked vessel.
A blood clot in a vein can appear because the blood flow to the feet and the legs is so slow that the blood actually clots. A clot can also appear because of an injury to the vein. Blood clots can also happen because the patient has been sitting or lying for a long time. This is actually a risk for people who take long distance flights. Other conditions that can cause clots are diabetes, smoking, tumors, hypertension, oral contraceptives and pregnancy. Sometimes the tendency for blood clots can be inherited. Blood clots can be treated by anticoagulants.