Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) occurs when a buildup of plaque and other substances blocks or narrows arteries, limiting or halting blood flow. The condition is also called peripheral artery disease (PAD).
The same artery blockages that cause PVD make people with the disease four to five times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.
PVD Symptoms and Risk Factors
Many people with PVD don't have symptoms, but there are signs to watch for.
If you answer "yes" to one or more of these questions, you may benefit from an evaluation by a PVD specialist:
- Do you smoke or have you ever smoked?
- Have you been diagnosed with diabetes, chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol?
- Do you have a family history of PVD?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with PVD, cardiac disease or stroke?
- Do you ever experience tiredness, heaviness or cramping in the leg muscles, especially during activity?
- Do your toes and feet look pale, discolored or bluish?
- If you have leg pain, does it disturb your sleep?
- Have you experienced sores or wounds on the toes, feet or legs that heal slowly or not at all?
- Does one leg or foot regularly feel colder than the other?
- Have you noticed poor nail growth and decreased hair growth over time on the toes or legs?
Some ways to help prevent PVD include the following:
- Do not smoke or quit smoking
- Eat a healthy diet
- Maintain a healthy weight
Peripheral Vascular Disease Treatment at Rush
Since people with PVD may not experience symptoms, patients at high risk for the disease should get regular checkups. Early detection can help restore your mobility, decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke, and possibly save your life.
If you are diagnosed with PVD, specialists at Rush collaborate across disciplines to create a personalized treatment plan for you. You can receive PVD care at multiple Rush locations.
Your treatment plan may include one or more of the following:
- Education on diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors that impact PVD
- Diabetes management
- Medications to lower blood pressure or cholesterol levels (or both)
- Minimally invasive options to restore blood flow, including the following:
- Atherectomy, a surgery technique for removing atherosclerosis from blood vessels
- Balloon angioplasty, a minimally invasive procedure to increase blood flow to the legs
- Stenting, permanently implanted in the artery to keep the artery open
- Bypass surgery to restore blood flow
- Referral to a rehabilitation program for supervised exercise
- Smoking cessation program
Aortic Abdominal Aneurysm (AAA)
All men age 65 or older who are current or former smokers, as well as people with a family history of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, are eligible for screening. An abdominal aortic aneurysm is an enlarged area in the lower part of the major vessel that supplies blood to the body (aorta). The aorta runs from the heart through the center of the chest and abdomen.
The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body, so a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm can cause life-threatening bleeding.
Depending on the size of the aneurysm and how fast it’s growing, treatment varies from watchful waiting to emergency surgery.
Lower Extremity PAD
PAD in the legs or lower extremities is the narrowing or blockage of the vessels that carry blood from the heart to the legs. It is primarily caused by the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries, which is called atherosclerosis. We screen all patients coming for cardiac evaluation to our cardiology clinic.
If the screening confirms PAD, the patient will be referred to Rush’s dedicated PAD clinic, where an appropriate evaluation will be carried out and therapy based on current guidelines will be recommended.
Rush Excellence in Peripheral Vascular Disease
- Care close to home: The Peripheral Artery Disease Clinic at Rush Oak Park Hospital offers comprehensive care to manage symptoms, keep the disease from worsening and reduce future risk. This includes diagnostic testing, a full range of treatments, education, supervised exercise and smoking cessation.
- Pioneers in PVD treatment: Rush University Medical Center was the first Chicago hospital to use a lumivascular technique combining imaging and therapy on a single device to unblock clogged arteries. This outpatient procedure uses a dime-sized incision and can provide an alternative to bypass surgery.
- Technology that pinpoints accuracy, effectiveness: A guided catheter with a camera helps doctors avoid puncturing arteries with the drills they need to dislodge plaque to restore blood flow. This type of technology allows interventional radiologists at Rush a success rate at opening arteries of more than 99%.
- Groundbreaking research, treatments: Specialists at Rush are leaders in research on peripheral vascular disease, so they are able to offer patients many new treatments before they are widely available.
- Enhanced diagnostics: At Rush, we know that PVD is often a silent disease. That’s why we started the screening program Rush’s Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) Clinic. All eligible Rush patients are screened for abdominal aortic aneurysms and lower extremity peripheral artery disease.