Do you experience painful muscle cramps in your hips, thighs or calves when moving around? You may be surprised to learn that this is the primary symptom of peripheral vascular disease (PVD). PVD is defined as diseases of the arteries outside of the heart and brain. PVD is a term used interchangeably with peripheral artery disease, or PAD, but PVD encompasses diseases of the arteries AND veins.
Arteries move blood away from the heart, and PAD typically involves the narrowing of the arteries that transport blood to the arms and legs. Veins take the blood back to the heart and generally don’t get narrowed with cholesterol, but rather develop another very common condition called chronic venous insufficiency (varicose veins).
PAD – Arteries
Many patients go undiagnosed because the symptoms can be attributed to something else, such as arthritis, a neuropathy or normal stiffness that occurs with aging. Patients with PAD may also experience numbness, weakness or coldness in one or both legs. Often the symptoms come on slowly and the patient starts altering their life style and become more sedentary.
On the other hand, at least half of people who suffer from PAD have no signs or indications at all. Risk factors for PAD include aging, personal or family history, cardiovascular disease or stroke. Controllable risk factors include:
- Cigarette smoking
- Diabetes mellitus
- Physical inactivity
- High blood cholesterol
- High blood pressure Renal failure
Chronic Venous Insufficiency
This is more common than PAD and may start at an early age. The symptoms of this may include any one or more of the following: legs feeling heavy or tired especially at the end of the day, mild swelling of ankles, severe cramps at night time, restless legs, itching of legs, or formation of visible veins on the leg. In severe cases the skin around the ankle area may get darker in color and sores may form, generally above the ankle, which are slow to heal.
Some of the risk factors include age, family history of varicose veins, obesity, standing for long periods on hard surfaces and history of blood clots or phlebitis in the leg.
If you have any of the above symptoms or would like to discuss your risk factors, talk to your healthcare provider. PVD diagnosis begins with a physical examination.
At Emory, treatment of PVD is a combined effort within the Emory Heart & Vascular Center, the Division of Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy and Interventional Radiology. To make an appointment, call 404-778-7777.
About Khusrow Niazi, MD
Dr. Niazi specializes in interventional cardiology, carotid artery disease, peripheral artery disease and venous disease of the legs. He has been practicing at Emory since 2003. He has been involved in many trials in treating blockages in the carotid arteries and leg arteries with less invasive options. Dr. Niazi is involved in trials focused on the removal of plaque from the leg arteries with less invasive methods. He also has treated many patients with chronic venous insufficiency and varicose veins.