To differentiate peripheral vascular disease from peripheral arterial disease, let us first discuss what each terminology means.
What is the definition of peripheral vascular disease?
Peripheral vascular diseases are the conditions that may cause changes in the way that your blood flows through your blood vessels, veins, and arteries in your body. These conditions may occur when an artery becomes blocked, weakened or narrowed. Peripheral vascular disease can occur in vessels that carry blood to different parts of the body such as legs, arms, stomach or kidneys.
Once you notice the symptoms of peripheral vascular disease or PVD in one of your legs, foot, or even arm, you have to immediately see your health care provider for an evaluation. Having peripheral vascular disease may not be considered as an emergency but it is also something that you cannot just ignore. Getting a medical evaluation of the symptoms and the treatment will prevent further damage in the heart as well as the blood vessels. It will also prevent more drastic events, including stroke or heart attack. You can even get rid of the risk of amputation.
What is the definition of peripheral arterial disease?
When this condition occurs in the arteries, it is called peripheral arterial disease, or PAD. Arteries are the blood vessels responsible for carrying oxygen away from your heart and then supply the rest of your body with oxygen. In PAD, the blood still flows but it flows too slowly or stops, causing oxygen to not get to that part of the body. When not treated properly, the lack of blood flow can lead to tissue damage and death of the affected extremity. Peripheral arterial disease can occur in your arteries of the upper and lower limbs, in your neck, in the vessels that supply organs as well as the rest of your body. Your lower limbs or legs are the first and most common body part to be affected by peripheral arterial disease.
One of the most common causes of peripheral artery disease is atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is also known as the hardening of the arteries. It usually occurs when plaque or fatty deposits build up on the inside walls of a patient’s arteries. If ignored, this will eventually cause the arteries to become narrowed and have blockages. When it occurs in the heart or brain, atherosclerosis may also lead to stroke and heart attack. Other less common possible causes of PAD include aneurysms, inflammation of the arteries, abnormal vessel development, as well as the presence of clots.
Complications of peripheral artery disease or PAD
If the PAD or the peripheral artery disease is caused by the buildup of plaques in the blood vessels or atherosclerosis, then the patient is at risk of developing critical limb ischemia or heart attack. Critical limb ischemia begins manifesting as open sores, an injury, or an infection on the legs or feet that would not heal. These are the conditions that could turn to critical limb ischemia, most especially when the injuries or infections progress. It will eventually then cause the tissue to die which is a condition also known as gangrene. When it happens, it may lead to amputation of the affected limb. For heart attack or stroke, the atherosclerosis causing the symptoms and signs of having peripheral artery disease will not just affect your lower limbs. Fat deposits may also build up in your arteries that are supplying your heart and brain. This may lead to a heart attack or stroke.