Peripheral Vascular Disease (Intermittent Claudication)


Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a medical condition characterized by narrowing of the lumen of arteries in the legs, causing a reduction in circulation to the toes, feet and legs. This disorder can affect both the legs but is often more severe on one side.

PVD is recognized as the most common disease of arteries and is referred to as coronary heart disease when the arteries of the heart are also affected.

Also known as the peripheral arterial disease (PAD) or arteriosclerosis, this condition affects at least 12-20 percent of Americans who are 65 years and older.

Key Symptoms

Peripheral vascular disease is characterized by a typical set of symptoms. Here we list the few main amongst them:

Leg pain, occurring with exercise and subsiding with rest (claudication)

Pain in the ball of the foot or toes

Numbness of the legs or feet at rest

Ulcers or sores on the foot, toes or ankles, that remain unhealed

Bluish or black discoloration of toes

Cold feet or legs

Muscle pain in thighs, calves or feet

Loss of hair on legs or feet

Change of color of legs

Cyanosis (paleness or blueness)

Pulse, weak or absent in the limb

Walking abnormalities

Causative Factors

Diabetes is regarded as one of the most common causes of PVD. Some of the other prominent causative factors are:



High cholesterol or blood pressure

Family history of heart or vascular disease

Being overweight

Diet high in fat and/or low in antioxidant vitamins C and E

Lack of exercise

Age over 50

Remedial Measures

The foremost aim of the treatment plan for peripheral vascular disease is to control risk factors by bringing in certain lifestyle changes.

Here we list some of the main treatment options advised for patients with peripheral vascular disease:

  1. Medications

    These are aimed at reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. The commonly prescribed drugs are:

  2. Antiplatelet drugs, such as aspirin

Anticoagulants, such as heparin and warfarin

Cholesterol-lowering drugs including niacin, statins, fibrates and bile acid sequestrants

Calcium channel blockers

Vitamins (B-6, B-12 and folate)



Grafting or bypass

Endovascular Therapy (from within the blood vessel)

Angioplasty and Stenting

Self care

Since the incidence of the disorder is quite high in people who have diabetes and those who smoke, certain specific lifestyle changes and self-care measures are also warranted. The main ones recommended are:

Reduce smoking

Wear proper footwear

Exercise regularly

Eat a healthy diet rich in antioxidants and low in fat

Keep the blood pressure and cholesterol level under control

Alternate therapies such as herbal treatments have also known to be useful in this condition.