Peripheral Arterial Disease

What is Peripheral Vascular Disease?

Peripheral vascular disease, PVD, occurs when the arteries of the legs and arms become blocked or narrowed, resulting in reduced blood flow to that area. The most common cause of blocked peripheral vessels is atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, where plaque builds up inside the vessel wall. Blood clots may also cause PVD. According to the American Heart Association, 8 to 12 million people have PVD, yet as many as 75 percent do not experience any symptoms.

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PVD Symptoms

One of the most apparent symptoms of PVD is painful cramping or burning of the legs or buttocks that occurs when walking. This condition is known as claudication. The pain usually subsides once the person stops the activity. An individual with this disease may walk a short distance before cramping becomes so severe that they have to stop to rest. The discomfort felt in these muscles occurs when walking due to a decrease in blood pressure in the legs or arms.

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What are the Risk Factors of PVD?

There are various risk factors that an individual could develop peripheral vascular disease, and those include: 

  • Over 50 years of age
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Physical inactivity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Family history of heart disease or vascular disease

How is PVD Diagnosed?

The most common test for PVD is the ankle-brachial index (ABI), a painless exam in which ultrasound is used to measure the ratio of blood pressure in the feet and arms. Based on the results of the ABI, as well as the patient's symptoms and risk factors for PVD, additional tests may be needed.


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Peripheral Arterial Disease

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