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Overview of peripheral vascular disease

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) happens when the blood flow to your arms and legs is reduced. This is due to the narrowing of the arteries caused by atherosclerosis. It means that less oxygen is delivered to your arms and legs. It's also called peripheral artery disease (PAD).

Smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, being overweight, and a family history of atherosclerosis increase your risk of getting PVD.

PVD is the most common cause of critical limb ischaemia, acute limb ischaemia and intermittent claudication. These are conditions where the lack of blood flow and oxygen cause tissue damage or pain.

PVD can also cause foot ulcers.

How is PVD diagnosed?

Your GP will ask you questions about your health and your symptoms. They may arrange blood tests to check your cholesterol and sugar levels.

Your GP may also refer you to a vascular specialist (a surgical doctor who specialises in blood vessels). The vascular specialist might arrange tests like an ankle-brachial index. For information about the ankle-brachial index test, see Tests for blood vessel problems.

How is PVD treated?

Treatment options include reducing your risk factors, and medication. Physical activity can help to improve your circulation and reduce your symptoms.

Reducing your risk factors

You can’t control all risk factors, but lifestyle changes can help you lower some risks. This means:

Taking medication

Your doctor might prescribe medicines to:

They might also prescribe anti-clotting medicines, such as aspirin or clopidogrel.

Sometimes, your doctor might refer you to an physical activity programme called Green Prescription.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created July 2018.

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