November 2, 2004
Mary Gurrala, RN, staff nurse in the Pre-Operative Screening Clinic examines veteran Leroy Thomas for Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD). PVD is a common circulation problem in which the arteries that carry blood to the legs or arms become narrowed or clogged. PVD affects about one in 20 people over the age of 50 in the United States. More than half the people with PVD experience leg pain, numbness, or other symptoms, but many people dismiss these signs as "a normal part of aging" and don't seek medical help.
HOUSTON - The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) held its 6th Annual "Legs For Life Campaign" in October. The Operative Care Line organized this important free screening clinic for Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD) and held it in the 5th Floor Preoperative Screening Clinic. The goal of the event was to teach veterans, their families, and friends how to recognize early symptoms of this disease.
PVD is a common circulation problem in which the arteries that carry blood to the legs or arms become narrowed or clogged. PVD is sometimes called peripheral arterial disease. PVD interferes with the normal flow of blood, sometimes causing pain, but often causing no symptoms at all.
The most common cause of PVD is atherosclerosis (often called hardening of the arteries). Atherosclerosis is a gradual process in which cholesterol and scar tissue build up, forming a substance called "plaque" that clogs the blood vessels. In some cases, PVD may be caused by blood clots that lodge in the arteries and restrict blood flow.
PVD affects about one in 20 people over the age of 50 in the U.S. More than half the people with PVD experience leg pain, numbness, or other symptoms, but many people dismiss these signs as "a normal part of aging" and don't seek medical help. Only about half of those with symptoms have been diagnosed with PVD and are seeing a doctor.
The most common symptom of PVD is painful cramping in the leg or hip, particularly when walking. This symptom, also known as "claudication," occurs when there is not enough blood flowing to the leg muscles during exercise. The pain typically goes away when the muscles are given a rest.
Other symptoms may include numbness, tingling, or weakness in the leg. In severe cases, you may experience a burning or aching pain in your foot or toes while resting, or develop a sore on your leg or foot that does not heal.
People with PVD also may experience a cooling or color change in the skin of the legs or feet, or loss of hair on the legs. In extreme cases, untreated PVD can lead to gangrene, a serious condition that may require amputation of a leg, foot, or toes. If you have PVD, you are also at higher risk for heart disease and stroke.
As many as 8 million people in the U.S. may have PVD. The disease affects everyone, although men are somewhat more likely than women to have PVD. Those who are at highest risk are over the age of 50, smokers, diabetic, overweight, people who do not exercise, or people who have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. A family history of heart or vascular disease may also put you at higher risk for PVD.
The screening process for PVD is quite simple. Your MEDVAMC health care provider will take your pulse in various parts of your legs. If the pulses in your legs are absent or severely decreased, an Ankle Brachial Index will be performed next.
If you have questions about PVD, ask your MEDVAMC Prime Care Provider or call the VA Network Telecare Center at (713) 794-8985 or toll-free 1 (800) 639-5137.
Point of Contact: VHAHOU Public Affairs2004/11/02