Peripheral Vascular Disease

Peripheral Vascular Disease

Peripheral vascular diseases are those related to the blood vessels outside the heart and brain. Often they are the narrowing of vessels carrying blood to the legs, arms, stomach or kidneys, i.e., “hardening of the arteries.” There are two categories of these circulation problems: functional and organic.

Functional peripheral vascular diseases don’t have an organic cause. That is, the blood vessels aren’t defective. Usually, the effects are short term, related to a spasm, and come and go. They may be triggered by cold, emotional stress, working with vibrating machinery or smoking.

Organic peripheral vascular diseases result from structural changes in the blood vessels, such as inflammation or damage to the tissues.


Claudication is discomfort or pain in your legs that happens when you walk and goes away when you rest. You may not always feel pain; instead you may feel a tightness, heaviness, cramping, or weakness in one or both of your legs. Claudication often occurs more quickly if you walk uphill or up a flight of stairs. Over time, you may feel claudication at shorter walking distances, as the degree of artery blockage worsens.