What Is Peripheral Vascular Disease?
“Peripheral” refers to the extremities – hands, feet, arms and legs. “Vascular” refers to the blood vessels and heart, the strong muscle that pumps blood throughout the body. Every heartbeat pushes blood through blood vessels, called arteries or veins.
Blood travels through arteries to reach and supply cells with oxygen and nutrients, which they absorb and burn. As the heart continues to pump, blood returns from the cells through veins, traveling back to the heart and lungs. All goes well when blood vessels are healthy and blood flows freely, circulating through the body.
However, the “disease” in peripheral vascular disease refers to disorders where blood vessels become blocked or narrow. Plaque build-up in blood vessels blocks blood flow, and consequently, blood doesn’t circulate very well.
When blood vessels in the heart area experience plaque buildup, people can have heart attacks. When plaque blocks blood to the brain, you can experience a stroke. However, when plaque build up restricts blood flow in the small and large blood vessels in the legs and feet, you develop peripheral vascular disease.
IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT PERIPHERAL VASCULAR DISEASE
Symptoms of peripheral vascular disease are:
- Calf cramping that occurs after walking
- Chronic lower leg pain (can occur when walking or resting)
- Shiny, tight skin on the foot
- No foot hair growth
- Numbness in feet or legs
- Cold feet
- Blue colored toes (called Blue Toe Syndrome)
- Chronic cuts, sores or ulcers on the legs or feet that don’t heal or heal slowly
Varicose veins are a type of peripheral vascular disease where the veins enlarge and lose their ability to maintain a proper blood flow back to the heart. As a result, blood collects in the feet and legs, which can create chronic swelling. After awhile, the skin around the feet and ankles begins to discolor and can easily develop sores or ulcers. Another danger of varicose veins is blood clot formation, which can be life threatening.
Who Is at Risk for Peripheral Vascular Disease?
Smokers, diabetics and people with high blood pressure are often the most at risk for developing peripheral vascular disease. So are people over the age of 70.
DISCUSS YOUR FOOT PROBLEMS IN DETAIL WITH DR. SCIORTINO
Tell Dr. Sciortino about Your Symptoms
If you visit Dr. Sciortino to treat foot problems, be sure to mention any of the above symptoms. Peripheral vascular issues sometimes become noticeable as foot and ankle problems.
Dr. Sciortino can perform diagnostic tests, determine whether you have peripheral vascular disease and refer you to a vascular specialist. Treatment may include an exercise program, medication and changes in diet. Sometimes surgery is necessary to improve blood flow, such as widening a narrowed artery. Or, you may need a more complex operation involving bypass surgery.
Arrange a visit with Dr. Sciortino and find out how he can help. Please call us to set up an appointment.