And ABC, 123, Do-Re-Mi, right? That’s a lot of shorthand … but this isn’t just silly text speak. Each of these acronyms represents a very serious cardiovascular-related condition that requires medical attention and treatment.
PVD = Peripheral Vascular Disease
PAD = Peripheral Artery Disease
VTE = Venous Thromboembolism
DVT = Deep Vein Thrombosis
PE = Pulmonary Embolism
Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a circulation disorder that causes blood vessels outside of the heart and brain to narrow or block. This can happen in either the arteries or veins and is most common in the legs but can also be present in the arms, stomach or kidneys.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is specifically, a narrowing of the arteries to the legs, stomach, arms and head—again, most common in the legs. Like coronary artery disease, the most common cause of PVD is atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque inside the artery wall. Plaque reduces the amount of blood flow to the limbs and decreases the oxygen and nutrients available to the tissue. Clots may form on the artery walls, further decreasing the inner size of the vessel and potentially blocking off major arteries.
The most common symptoms of PAD involving the lower extremities are cramping, pain or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles while walking or climbing stairs. Typically, this pain goes away with rest and returns when you walk again. Left untreated, PAD can lead to gangrene and amputation. And if the blockage occurs in a carotid artery, it can cause a stroke.
Risk Factors for PAD
Luckily, PAD is easily diagnosed by non-invasive methods … but you have to get checked out! Many people dismiss leg pain as a normal sign of aging. You may think it’s arthritis or just “stiffness” from getting older. If you’re having any kind of recurring pain, talk to your healthcare professional and describe the pain as accurately as you can. If you have risk factors for PAD, you should ask your doctor about PAD even if you aren’t having symptoms.
Venous Thromboembolism, Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism
A pulmonary embolism (PE) is a blood clot in your lungs. The clot often forms in the deep veins of the lower legs or thighs. This condition is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If the blood clot breaks loose and travels through the bloodstream, it’s called a venous thromboembolism (VTE) and may represent a life-threatening condition. A PE is usually a VTE that travels from the leg to the lungs. PE is a very serious condition which can cause death.
Talk to your doctor if you have any of the above symptoms or risk factors. There are non-invasive treatments available to help dissolve clots before they break off and become life-threatening.
To find a Mercy Health cardiovascular physician, visit our Find-a-Doctor tool on our website at www.mercyhealth.org/find-a-physician.
Sources: American Heart Association, National Institutes of Health, Mayo Clinic