What Happens If Peripheral Vascular Disease Is Left Untreated?

Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD) is also commonly referred to as Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). It is a condition in which the arteries that supply blood to the arms, legs and feet become narrow and hard resulting in a reduction of the blood supply to these parts of the body. This in turn can lead to nerve and tissue damage.

If The Condition Is Not Treated

A major problem with PVD is that people suffering from it often presume that the initial symptoms are just normal aches and pains and ignore them or use painkillers. The medications only hide the symptoms and do not cure the condition which will continue to get worse while the medication hides the progression. In the early stages of PVD the common signs are noticed only after walking or other exercise of the legs and feet and often fade away after a little rest. It usually starts with pain that happens when walking uphill, walking at a faster than normal pace or walking for a long distance.  As time passes the symptoms appear more quickly and with greater intensity; and the legs may become numb when at rest or be cool to the touch. This is caused by the lower flow of blood.

If the condition remains untreated, the following complications may arise:

Ø  Cramps and severe pain at night while sleeping

Ø  Pain and a tingling (“pins and needles”) feeling in the toes that causes them to becomes so sensitive that even a slight touch like the weight of a sheet on them can result in great pain

Ø  An increase in pain when the leg is raised and a decrease when it is lowered off the side of the bed so that gravity draws more blood down

Ø  The skin begins to darken and takes on a blue tinge

Ø  Sores on the legs and feet do not heal or take much longer than normal to do so

Ø  Atrophy (shrinkage) of the calf muscles

Ø  Hair loss on the feet and toes

Ø  A sensation of the skin being tight and uncomfortable

Ø  Thick toenails

Ø  Sexual impotence because of nerve and tissue damage caused by low blood flow

Ø  In the worst case scenarios untreated PVD can lead to:

Ø  Open sores, infections and injuries to the legs and feet that do not heal. These injuries and infections can cause the development of tissue death, commonly known as gangrene. This condition, known as Critical Limb Ischemia may require amputation of the affected limb.

Ø  The PVD that is causing the problems with the lower limbs and feet may be affecting other parts of the body also, including the supply of blood to the heart and brain which, if untreated, could result in strokes and heart attacks.

PVD Treatment

PVD treatment has two main goals. The first is to manage the pain and other symptoms so that the patient can resume normal activities. The second is to stop the progression of the condition in the feet, legs and other parts of the body so the chances of heart attacks and strokes is reduced.

The first thing to be done is to make medically advised lifestyle changes such as getting enough of the right kind of exercise as well as rest, stopping smoking and alcohol consumption and controlling the diet. If these changes are not enough to reverse the progression of the problem, then an extended course of prescription medication may be required. And in cases where even medication may not be adequate surgery or angioplasty may be required.

Not ignoring foot and leg pain and other problems and consulting a doctor if they continue for a few days, is the first and best step in preventing or at least controlling PVD.


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