Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD): Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 2/16/2021

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD), also known as peripheral arterial disease (PAD), is a condition in which there is a narrowing of the blood vessels outside of the heart.

Many people with PVD do not have any noticeable symptoms. When symptoms and signs do occur, these can include

  • painful cramping in one or both hips, thighs or calf muscles after certain activities, such as walking or climbing stairs;
  • leg numbness or weakness;
  • coldness in the lower leg or foot, especially when compared with the other side; and
  • sores on the toes, feet, or legs that won't heal.

Other associated signs and symptoms can include a

  • change in the skin color of the legs,
  • hair loss or slower hair growth on the feet and legs,
  • slower growth of toenails,
  • shiny skin, and
  • loss of pulse or a weak pulse in the legs or feet.

Cause of peripheral vascular disease

PVD is caused by atherosclerosis, which occurs when plaque builds up on the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the arms and legs. The main risk factor for the condition is tobacco smoking.

Other peripheral vascular disease symptoms and signs

  • Change in the Skin Color of the Legs
  • Coldness in the Lower Leg or Foot, Especially When Compared with the Other Side
  • Hair Loss or Slower Hair Growth on the Feet and Legs
  • Leg Numbness or Weakness
  • Loss of Pulse or a Weak Pulse in the Legs or Feet
  • Painful Cramping in One or Both Hips, Thighs or Calf Muscles After Certain Activities, Such as Walking or Climbing Stairs
  • Shiny Skin
  • Slower Growth of Toenails
  • Sores on the Toes, Feet, or Legs That Won't Heal

Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.