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Tulane Doctors ~ Heart & Vascular Institute ~ Peripheral Vascular Disease

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD), also known as peripheral artery disease (PAD), includes all diseases caused by obstruction of the large arteries in the arms and legs. PVD can result from a number of causes including: atherosclerosis, inflammatory processes that lead to stenosis, an embolism, or thrombus formation. The result is an inadequate supply of blood (known as ischemia) which causes tissue death.


  • Claudication (pain, weakness, numbness, or cramping in muscles due to decreased blood flow) with exercise that improves with rest.
  • Any sores, wounds, or ulcers (on legs or arms) that heal slowly or not at all
  • Noticeable change in color (developing a blue or pale color) or change in temperature (becoming cold to the touch) when compared to the other limb
  • Loss of hair and lack of nail growth on affected limb and digits
  • Impotence or erectile dysfunction

  • Smoking - tobacco, in any form, is the number one cause of PVD. Smokers have up to ten times the risk as nonsmokers of developing PVD. Exposure to second-hand smoke also promotes changes in the lining of blood vessels which is a cause of atherosclerosis.
  • People with Diabetes mellitus have two to four times increased risk of PVD due to cellular dysfunction in peripheral arteries. People with diabetes account for up to 70% of nontraumatic amputations due to PVD.
  • Dyslipidemia is the name for an elevation of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, each associated with increased PVD. Correction of dyslipidemia by diet and/or medication is associated with a major improvement in short-term rates of heart attack and stroke.
  • Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is correlated with an increase in the risk of developing PVD, as well as with other types of cerebrovascular events (heart attack and stroke).
  • Risk of PVD also increases if a person is over the age of 50, African American, male, obese, or has a personal history of vascular disease, heart attack, or stroke.