Know the Difference: Peripheral Vascular Disease vs. Peripheral Arterial Disease

Vascular diseases can range from coronary artery disease to congestive heart failure and high blood pressure, but two of the diseases – peripheral vascular disease (PVD) and peripheral arterial disease (PAD) – are so similarly named and so closely connected that they’re often used interchangeably. However, the diseases are different and there are some important distinctions to be made.

Peripheral Vascular Disease

Also known as the circulatory system, the vascular system is composed of arteries and arterioles, which make up the arterial system, as well as veins and venules (the venous system), and capillaries, which are the smallest bloods vessels. And PVD is a general term that encompasses any disease that affects them outside the heart, especially in the extremities.

Peripheral Arterial Disease

When PVD affects only the arteries and not the veins, it is called peripheral arterial disease – which is essentially the condition of having one or more clogged arteries. It develops when plaque, or fatty deposits, become trapped in your arteries and limit blood flow to your legs.

Signs & Symptoms of PVD

Like many diseases, PVD often begins slowly and symptoms may appear irregularly. So, it’s important to know your body and recognize (and track) any changes may be associated with PVD, including:

  • Leg fatigue
  • Cramping in your legs and feet, especially while lying in bed
  • Reduced hair growth on your legs
  • Legs and/or arms that turn reddish blue or pale
  • Weak pulses in your legs and arms
  • Leg wounds or ulcers that won’t heal
  • Toes that turn blue, feel as though their burning or have thick, opaque nails
  • Leg muscles that feel numb or heavy

Reducing Your Risks

Although risks for PVD and PAD do include some factors that are out of your control, like being over 50, having a family history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and/or PVD, there are still things you can do to reduce your risk of developing peripheral vascular disease, including:


  • Avoiding or quitting smoking
  • Controlling your blood sugar (if you’re diabetic)
  • Exercising regularly (aim for 30 minutes a day, five days a week)
  • Lowering or keeping your cholesterol and blood pressure to a healthy range.
  • Eating a diet that’s low in saturated fat
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

If you’re concerned about your symptoms or need help managing your risk factors for developing PVD or PAD, talk to your doctor or contact a member of our team at vispdocs.com, or 928.771.8477.