The blood vessels that make up the human circulatory system are essential for sustaining life. These critical passageways allow blood to flow freely throughout the body, providing oxygen and other nutrients as needed. When working efficiently, the circulatory system is a spectacular display of how the body functions. When it is not working efficiently, however, individuals may suffer from a myriad of dangerous complications. One of the most common and the most dangerous is peripheral vascular disease.
Peripheral vascular disease is a condition that affects the blood vessels. When people suffer from PVD, the blood vessels no longer provide a clear passageway for the blood. Instead, the vessels are blocked, narrowed or otherwise weakened, which begins to impede the flow of blood. This is caused by a variety of factors, including fatty tissue in the blood. This type of restricted blood flow can occur anywhere in the body, and PVD is used to describe any reduced blood flow beyond the brain and heart. PVD is relatively common in the United States, especially in older individuals. Men have a slightly increased risk, and other contributing factors can include obesity, smoking and diabetes.
The Risk of Amputation
The effect of peripheral vascular disease can be varied. When blood flow is restricted, the organs involved will begin to show signs of decreased circulation. Since blood carries oxygen and other nutrients, damage will start to accumulate on the parts of the body cut off from the blood. This can start with simple symptoms, such as cold feet, mild pain and skin discoloration. However, as the process continues to get worse, the damage will build. Eventually, when blood flow is too severely reduced, the affected organs may become gangrenous and die. If this process is not reversed, amputation may be the only option. In most cases of unchecked PVD, this may include either the hands or feet.
Not everyone who suffers from PVD will notice symptoms right away. Most of the time, pain is the first and most pressing symptom in PVD. In many cases, the pain is felt in the legs, perhaps spreading up through the calves, thighs and even the hips. The pain can be worse while moving, when blood flow is being accelerated. Although the pain is often dull and cramping, it can also be felt like a heaviness or tightness in the muscles. As the disease progresses, pain may be experienced at night and may include numbness and tingling. Other notable symptoms may include loss of hair on the legs or feet and impotence. People may also see a change in skin color in the affected areas. When the pulse is significantly decreased in the hands or feet, the disease is probably advanced. All of these symptoms should serve as warning signs of potential complications, including amputation.
While lifestyle changes can improve blood flow, they are often not enough to stop the progression of the disease. Therefore, other treatments may be necessary in order to avoid the risk of amputation. The best options for peripheral vascular disease treatment are often performed by vein specialists. Exact treatment will vary depending on the blood vessels that are affected and the severity of the disease. Most of these treatments involve inserting a small catheter into the vein to inflate the blood vessel, such as with angioplasty. Stents may also be inserted into the clogged vein to hold it open, or stent grafts may be used to circumvent affected areas. Doctors may also pursue medication, using specialized prescriptions to break up blockages in the veins. In severe cases, open surgery may be necessary to restore blood flow.
Getting a Professional Opinion
If you have any warning signs for amputation, then it is imperative to act immediately. The best treatments performed by vein specialists use interventional radiology. Interventional radiology employs advanced imaging technology, allowing for increased comfort and precision. MIIGS has the only certified interventional radiologists in Louisiana. Vein specialists at MIIGS perform minimally invasive procedures in the office, most of which do not require general anesthesia. This dramatically reduces the risk of complication and minimizes recovery time. Appointments are available immediately, and no physician referral is necessary. MIIGS works with most insurers, which means that most patients suffering from PVD will be covered. For more information about MIIGS or how we can help with your PVD, please visit our website or submit an online contact form for more information, or call us today at 318.528.7560 to schedule your consultation.