Max Rady College of Medicine

Term: Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)

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Glossary Definition

Last Updated: 2018-01-31


A chronic, progressive circulation disorder caused by narrowing of the blood vessels (atherosclerosis) located outside of the heart, including arteries, veins or lymphatic vessels. For this reason, PVD is often used synonymously with the term peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Narrowing of the blood vessels due to plaque buildup can cause blockages or reduce blood flow, typically to the legs. Tissue death and foot or leg amputation may result from severe blockages. PVD may also increase risk of heart attack, stroke, and transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke).

PAD may be asymptomatic, or include various symptoms such as pain or numbness in leg muscles; legs or feet with weak or absent pulse, decreased toe nail and hair growth, or slowly healing wounds; pale or bluish skin colour; lower temperature in one leg; and erectile dysfunction, especially among men with diabetes.

PVD is diagnosed with a physical exam and heart and imaging tests. Smoking, older age, presence of diabetes, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke are risk factors. Treatments options include lifestyle change (improved dietary habits, exercise, and other efforts to reduce high blood cholesterol and blood pressure), medications and possibly surgery.

See MedlinePlus® - Health Topics - Peripheral Arterial Disease for more clinical information.

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  • Hong Y, Sebastianski M, Makowsky M, Tsuyuki R, McMurtry MS. Administrative data are not sensitive for the detection of peripheral artery disease in the community. Vasc Med 2016;21(4):331-336. [Abstract] (View)

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