Peripheral Vascular Disease

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a slow and progressive circulation disorder. It may involve disease in any of the blood vessels outside the heart, as well as diseases of the lymph vessels – the arteries, veins, or lymphatic vessels.

PVD is often characterized by a narrowing of the vessels that carry blood to the leg and arm muscles. Organs supplied by these vessels, such as the brain, heart, and legs, also may not receive adequate blood flow for ordinary function. The legs and feet are most commonly affected.

Approximately half the individuals diagnosed with peripheral vascular disease are symptom-free. For those experiencing symptoms, the most common first symptom is leg discomfort described as painful cramping that occurs with exercise and is relieved by rest. The pain disappears during rest because the muscles need less blood flow. Pain may occur in one or both legs depending on the location of the clogged or narrowed artery.


By carefully evaluating your medical history and using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), angiography, ultrasound, or other examinations for assessment, a UT Southwestern specialist will recommend the right medication and lifestyle changes that will help you minimize risk for a heart attack or stroke. 


If medication or lifestyle changes are not sufficient to keep peripheral vascular disease under control, a specialist will recommend an angioplasty treatment or surgical procedure.

By assessing the amount of plaque buildup that may be occurring in your blood vessels, UT Southwestern’s specialists can determine whether you are a good candidate for a stent, a mesh-like tube used to help unblock a blood vessel. With this minimally invasive angioplasty procedure, only a small incision is needed to place the stent in the appropriate location.

Depending on your specific condition, the vascular surgeon may also repair the blood vessel by removing a vein from another part of the body to re-route blood flow around the portion of the blood vessel that is blocked. A synthetic blood vessel may sometimes be used to accomplish the same result.

If your normal blood flow is blocked due to peripheral vascular disease, effective treatment is necessary to reduce your risk of infection, heart attack, stroke, and other potentially serious conditions. A UT Southwestern vascular specialist can accurately determine whether the peripheral vascular disease presents a risk for complications.

With the right medications, our physicians can help relieve the symptoms of your peripheral vascular disease, address its causes, and help prevent the need for surgery, angioplasty, or other procedures. If the condition requires surgery or minimally invasive therapies, our specialists have the knowledge and experience needed to effectively treat peripheral vascular disease.