Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)

Many conditions that affect primarily the entire arterial system of the human body except for the coronary arteries in the heart is described as peripheral vascular disease - or PVD in short. Some of the major arteries that are affected during PVD include arterial systems that run along the upper arms and the legs, the arteries in the neck-or the carotid arteries; also affected are the aorta in the abdominal region and its myriad branches, the arteries of the kidney- renal arteries are also commonly affected during the condition.

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While the condition as such has many underlying reasons, it is believed that atherosclerosis is the primary reason of nearly all types of PVD; atherosclerosis is the thickening and hardening of artery walls in certain regions of the body-by itself it has many underlying reasons for occurring.

Some conditions that cause disorders in the veins of the body are mostly not included in general disorders due to PVD or related to it-thus, conditions i.e. chronic venous insufficiency, the  varicose veins' problem, and related conditions like hemorrhoids cannot be clubbed with PVD or its related conditions.

Incidences of stroke for example are mostly due to peripheral vascular disease of carotid arteries. Peripheral vascular disease of the arteries in the legs causes a condition often known as intermittent claudication-during this condition pain is felt in the lower parts of the legs even after walking relatively short distances.

Peripheral vascular disease of the veins supplying the penile musculature could be one of the causes of impotence in men. In a condition known as Raynaud's disease-pain is caused by cramps in the arteries after a person is exposed to the cold or inclement weather and this is related to PVD. A rare PVD known as TAO (Thromboangiitis obliterans), mostly called Buerger's disease, affects both the veins and arteries of the body and causes a variety of symptoms to appear in the patient.

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The condition starts by the development of inflamed areas on the arms or in the legs of the individual-these become very tender, this initial symptom is followed by coldness in the feet or hands, and in the other extremities of the body.

The weakened state of the walls of the blood vessels in the body can lead to a condition called aneurysm-the artery is ballooned up because of this weakening. Atherosclerosis or an inherited disorder can lead to the appearance of all manner of aneurysms in the body of an individual. AAA or abdominal aortic aneurysm, which affects the big artery carrying blood  to the lower part of the body from the heart, is the most common type of aneurysm.

The risk of developing AAA increases with age and men as a demographic group is more likely to suffer from it than women. Because of their ability to suddenly rupture and cause possible life threatening complications in the body; any large abdominal aortic aneurysms are normally surgically repaired on detection in the body as a precautionary step.

Some of the common physical symptoms seen in individuals suffering from peripheral vascular disease among many are the presence of painful sensations, fatigue, aches and cramps in the muscles of the affected leg; these symptoms may only subside on resting for long periods of time and are aggravated by elevating the affected part of the body.

Swelling in the feet and the ankles along with a persistent and dull ache can also be felt by other patients suffering from PVD-these symptoms can be aggravated by prolonged periods of standing and will only subside when the affected part of the body is raised or elevated. Varicose veins, ulcers in the legs and darkening of the areas on the skin are other symptoms normally observed in individuals affected with chronic peripheral vascular disease.

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Supplements and herbs

High levels of homocysteine accompanied by correspondingly low levels of folic acid are seen in the bodies of people with thromboangiitis obliterans, in common with other vascular diseases. The use of folic acid supplementation as a possible cure for this condition has not been sufficiently investigated in people affected by the disease and controlled studies are required for proving or disproving the efficacy of folic acid supplementation.

For the treatment of skin ulcers due to PVD, a single controlled study made a comparison in the relative efficacy of a type of vitamin B3 (niacin), which is known as inositol hexaniacinate to the medication pyridinolcarbamate. This trial also made use of supplementation of a placebo to certain groups; in about half of the patients tested the use of both 1.2 g of inositol hexaniacinate on a daily basis and 1.5 g of the other drug also on a daily basis elicited a positive and beneficial result as far as the symptoms associated with PVD was concerned.

Evidence of free radical damage is often seen in the walls of the blood vessels of people affected by AAA and this is in keeping with typical symptoms of many other vascular diseases, additionally all individuals suffering from the symptoms of AAA often possess triglyceride levels and abnormal cholesterol in the body.

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The use of antioxidant supplements containing free radical busting substances or the use of supplements that can lower the level of blood fats in patients to lessen the chance of AAA has not been studied and will require controlled trials to verify its efficacy. Also all patient with AAA tend to suffer damage to their arterial walls; these become depleted of the large molecules that resemble cartilage, these can be compounds like the chondroitin sulfate; however, the use of chondroitin sulfate supplements in improving the arterial walls has not been sufficiently investigated. Normal arterial structure requires sufficient levels of the mineral copper within the body.

Rupturing of the aorta and the weakening of the arterial walls was observed during animal studies done on test subjects with deficiencies of the mineral. During this animal study the use of copper supplements to combat the mineral deficiency led to a prevention of the rupturing of the arterial wall.

Some studies have supported the use of copper supplements to treat the copper deficiency associated in peoples with AAA; other studies have not supported this line of approach and rule out its efficacy. Also, as far as the prevention or the management of aneurysms is concerned, the use of copper supplements in the treatment methodology has not been sufficiently examined.


Another effective treatment for PVD that has been reported is the use of intravenous chelation therapy in patients. Some improvements in the state of patients were observed during a partially controlled study conducted on several patients using 10 chelation treatments as a part of the testing regimen. In patients who had intermittent claudication, however; two further confirmatory double-blind studies could not detect any appreciable difference between the use of a placebo and the use of chelation therapy in the patients who underwent these trails.

As far as patient with TAO are concerned some preliminary reports have suggested that the use of acupuncture may help reduce the pain and will lead to an improved flow of the blood in patients; this contention has not been verified and further confirmatory studies in a controlled environment is required to establish the efficacy of this treatment methodology.

Additional things you may do

A major cause of the condition is smoking and most individuals who suffer from TAO are heavy smokers; the need for TAO patients to quit smoking is very self evident from this evidence alone. TAO patients must quit smoking as a first step towards recovery.


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