What is the Difference Between PAD and PVD?

Do you know what makes these two diseases different?

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) and peripheral vascular disease (PVD) are both common vascular diseases that affect the blood vessels in the human body.

Other vascular diseases can range from coronary artery disease to congestive heart failure.

Although people use them interchangeably, it is important to know how PAD and PVD differ from each other.

Let’s explore the differences to find the best treatment for each.

Peripheral Vascular Disease

The vascular system is composed of many different blood vessels that circulate blood, which carries oxygen and nutrients, throughout your body. 

Arteries and arterioles make up the arterial system. Veins and venules comprise the venous system. 

What connects the two systems are capillaries, which are the smallest of the blood vessels. 

PVD is a general term that encompasses any disease that affects the blood vessels outside your heart or brain, especially in your extremities (hands and feet).

Peripheral Arterial Disease

When PVD affects only arteries, and veins are not affected, it is called PAD or peripheral artery disease.

Peripheral artery disease is essentially the condition of having blood flow decreased or stopped by one or more clogged peripheral artery.

PAD develops when plaque, or fatty deposits, become trapped in your arteries and limit blood flow to your legs.

Plaque that blocks blood flow in your arteries can cause a build-up in fibrin which can result in blood clots 

The Signs & Symptoms of PVD

Like many diseases, PVD often begins slowly and symptoms may appear irregularly. 

This makes it important to know your body and recognize (and track) changes that may be associated with PVD, including:

  • Leg fatigue – Legs that get tired quickly
  • Cramping in your legs and feet, especially while lying in bed
  • Reduced hair growth on your legs
  • Numbness or tingling sensation in hands or feet
  • 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 they’re burning or have thick, opaque nails
  • Leg muscles that feel numb or heavy

Reducing Your Risks

Although risk factors for PVD and PAD do include some things that are out of your control, there are still things you can do to reduce your risk including:

  • Avoid or quit smoking altogether
  • Control your blood sugar (if you’re diabetic)
  • Lower or keep your cholesterol and blood pressure within a healthy range.
  • Eat a diet that is low in saturated fat
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly (a reasonable goal should be 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week)

The risk factors beyond your control include being over 50 and having a family history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or PVD. 

Getting the Best Treatment for PVD 

Before seeking invasive or exploratory surgery to solve PVD, it is important to understand treatments that are available to you.

Vascular & Interventional Specialists of Prescott are a well-known group of interventional radiologists who perform minimally invasive treatments for many common pain-causing conditions including PVD.

Interventional radiologists have pioneered some of the most effective treatments for PVD such as stenting and angioplasty. Another treatment, also requiring image guidance, is atherectomy.


Angioplasty – A treatment performed when an artery has been blocked by plaque build-up or has collapsed preventing blood from flowing specifically to the heart.

A doctor inserts a catheter into an artery guiding it to one of the coronary arteries. The doctor releases dye into the artery so the blockage can be seen on an x-ray.

Then a different catheter, one equipped with a small balloon, replaces the first at the same location. 

The doctor then inflates the balloon at the location of the blockage reopening the artery so blood can flow normally.


Atherectomy – As an alternative to angioplasty, an atherectomy also involves inserting a catheter into an artery until it reaches the blockage.

This catheter is also equipped with a balloon, but the balloon is attached to a tool used to cut away the buildup causing a blockage.

When the balloon inflates it puts the cutting tool in contact with the plaque buildup so it can cut away blockage.


Stenting – When angioplasty or atherectomy procedures are performed, usually inserting a stent will be the last step of the procedure.

A stent is a mesh tube made of metal. Doctors insert a stent into an artery that has just been widened through angioplasty or atherectomy.

A stent will hold the blood vessel open to prevent the narrowing or collapse of treated arteries.

Pain Relief

Are you or someone you know experiencing symptoms of PVD?

Reduce your risk for heart disease, aortic aneurysms or stroke by getting checked out!

We want you to be informed about advances in pain management and treatments for common pain-causing conditions.

Visit us at vispdocs.com, or call 928.771.8477 for more information.

Author Profile

Vascular & Interventional Specialists of Prescott was formed in 2010 by a group of subspecialty radiologists that perform numerous minimally-invasive, low-risk procedures using the tools of our trade for guidance—x-ray, ultrasound, CT scan, and MRI. The team’s goal is to educate patients and medical communities, while also providing safe and compassionate health care, with rapid recovery times and low risk of complications.