Peripheral vascular diseases (PVDs) are circulation disorders that affect blood vessels outside of the heart and brain. PVD typically strikes the veins and arteries that supply the arms, legs, and organs located below your stomach. These are the blood vessels that are distant from the heart. They are known as peripheral vessels.

In PVD, blood vessels are narrowed. Narrowing is usually caused by arteriosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis is a condition where plaque builds up inside a vessel. It is also called “hardening of the arteries.” Plaque decreases the amount of blood and oxygen supplied to the arms and legs.

As plaque growth progresses, clots may develop. This further restricts the affected vessel. Eventually, arteries can become obstructed.


PVD that develops only in the arteries is called peripheral arterial disease (PAD). This is the most common form of PVD. Approximately 12 to 20 percent of people over age 65 have PAD.

PVD that develops in the deep veins in the body is usually caused from claudication and is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

PVD and PAD are often used to mean the same condition that affects the arteries. PVD may also be referred to as:

  • arteriosclerosis obliterans
  • arterial insufficiency of the legs
  • claudication
  • intermittent claudication