News | Published February 25, 2020 | Written by Nicole Young, MHS, PA-C, Mount Nittany Physician Group Cardiology

What to know about peripheral vascular disorders

Nicole Young, MHS, PA-C, Mount Nittany Physician Group Cardiology

Peripheral vascular disorders (PVD) refer to conditions of the circulatory system outside of the heart. PVD most commonly involves the arteries and veins of the legs. Two of the most common types of PVD are peripheral arterial disease and chronic venous insufficiency. While serious, these conditions are quite common and treatable by a medical professional.

Peripheral arterial disease
Approximately 8.5 million Americans age 40 and older have peripheral arterial disease (PAD), which results in narrowing or blockage of the arteries carrying blood from the heart to the legs. The main cause of PAD is atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of fatty plaque within the arteries. Risk factors for developing PAD include smoking, diabetes, hypertension and elevated cholesterol.

Common symptoms of PAD include:

  • Leg pain with activity that improves with rest
  • Leg coolness or discoloration
  • Leg numbness or weakness
  • Slow healing leg wounds or sores can occur in advanced disease

Diagnosis of PAD in the legs is important for treatment but also because it identifies people at higher risk for heart attacks and strokes. Common tests used by your doctor to check for PAD include leg blood pressure measurements, ultrasound imaging, CT scans and angiography.

Treatment options for peripheral arterial disease include:

  • Lifestyle modification including diet and structured exercise
  • Management of risk factors
  • Medication
  • Endovascular procedures including angioplasty, stenting and atherectomy (plaque removal)
  • Bypass surgery

Chronic venous insufficiency
Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) occurs when the valves in the veins no longer work properly to help move blood towards the heart. This results in blood pooling in the legs. Nearly 40 percent of people in the United States have CVI. Venous insufficiency is more common in females and often runs in families. Other risk factors include pregnancy, obesity, prior blood clots and standing for prolonged periods.

Common symptoms of CVI include:

  • Varicose veins and spider veins
  • Leg swelling
  • Leg pain/aching
  • Leg heaviness
  • Itching
  • Advanced disease can lead to discoloration and eventual sores or ulcers

To evaluate whether venous insufficiency is a problem, your doctor will usually need to get an ultrasound image of your veins.

Treatment options for venous insufficiency include:

  • Lifestyle modification including exercise and leg elevation
  • Compression stockings
  • Endovenous thermal ablation of problem veins (radiofrequency or laser)
  • Endovenous adhesive closure of problem veins (VenaSeal)
  • Sclerotherapy of varicose and spider veins (Varithena)

Mount Nittany Physician Group Cardiology’s vascular medicine providers – led by Christopher Jones, MD – specialize in treatment of vascular disorders. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call 814.689.3140. Appointments can also be made by visiting mymountnittanyhealth.com.

Nicole Young, MHS, PA-C, Mount Nittany Physician Group Cardiology is a physician assistant practicing general cardiology and vascular medicine at the Mount Nittany Health – Park Avenue office.