Peripheral Venous Disease

Peripheral venous disease (PVD) involves damaged or blocked veins that carry blood from the hands and feet back to the heart. While peripheral venous disease can occur anywhere in the body, it is most often seen in the arms and legs.

Blood clots are the most common cause of PVD. These clots form in areas where the vein wall has been weakened and blood flow has slowed. A clot that forms in a vein just under the skin is called a superficial vein thrombosis while one developing far beneath the surface is known as a deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Veins can be damaged or weakened and develop peripheral venous disease in a number of ways, including injury, major surgery or an extended period of bed rest or inactivity. In addition, smoking and obesity contribute to the problem as do some types of cancer. Women who are pregnant or are using birth control pills also face an increased risk of suffering from PVD.

The first indication of peripheral venous disease in patients is pain in the area where the clot has formed, whether it is close to the surface or deep beneath. Other symptoms are redness, swelling or a warm patch on the skin in the affected area.

A doctor will assess the area and also check your blood pressure and heart as part of a physical examination to check for PVD. In most cases, these tests will confirm the presence of the disease but additional procedures are sometimes necessary. These can include examining the affected region with an ultrasound device or performing a venography examination in which a standard x-ray it taken of the area after contrast dye has been injected into the area above the clot.

For many patients with mild forms of PVD, self-directed cures such as exercising, elevating the affected area, bandaging or special compression stockings can help clear up the disease. In more severe cases, or for those patients in high-risk groups, blood thinning medication may be prescribed.

As with other blood vessel-related ailments, there are several of minimally invasive, non-surgical treatments available, such as balloon angioplasty or stent placement. PVD also can be treated with sclerotherapy, a procedure in which a liquid medication is injected directly into the clot, causing it to shrink over time. There also are cases of peripheral venous disease – especially those involving a deep vein thrombosis – for which surgery may be recommended.

For quality vascular care, contact the heart and vascular specialists by calling 1.877.GO MERCY or using our Find A Doctor page.