Sugar Matters
January 28, 2014

A close relative-peripheral vascular disease (PVD)

Most of you have heard of heart disease (if not before, definitely after reading the last few weeks of Sugar Matters!). However a good number of you may never have heard of peripheral vascular disease, which is a close relative of heart disease. Similar to the heart’s blood vessels being clogged, peripheral vascular disease is where the other vessels in the body are clogged with plaque.{{more}} It can be in your legs, your belly, your neck -anywhere outside of the heart and brain. The problem is the very same as heart disease: because the blood vessels are clogged with plaque, blood does not flow like it should and the muscles/tissues/cells then starve for oxygen and nutrients. They can hurt and they can die.

If you have diabetes, it is basically assumed that you most likely have peripheral artery disease even if you have no symptoms. Now if you have heart disease, it is just about 100% that you also have peripheral vascular disease (PVD). It is not necessarily true the other way around however, and this is where it becomes more useful to know if you have PVD or not: you can have PVD and not yet have developed significant heart disease, but if you know about the PVD then you can be assured that you REALLY need to start intensive therapy to prevent worsening heart disease.

How do you know if you have peripheral vascular disease (PVD)? There are some symptoms, although they are not specific and many people can have PVD without symptoms. In fact about 50% of folks with PVD have no symptoms.

Still, keep these in mind:

Pain in the legs while walking or climbing stairs, but better when you stop. This is called claudication. The symptoms happen because when you walk your muscles need more blood flow, but if your blood vessels are so clogged the blood cannot get there, your muscles start to cramp and hurt. Once you stop walking, they do not need as much blood and oxygen so the pain stops. Patients of mine have described the pain as a cramp, or “tired muscles.” The pain is most often in the calf but can be anywhere along the leg or hip area. If you have this when you walk and it gets better when you stop, or it happens when you are lying still and it gets better if you hang your legs off the chair or side of the bed, you may have PVD.

Ulcers, bruises or cuts on your feet that will not heal. This can also be due to high blood sugars, but also remember that high blood sugars and PVD go hand in hand. You may have more than one reason why those wounds will not heal.

Leg numbness or weakness.

Coldness in one leg more than the other, or both legs compared to your arms

Loss of hair on your legs.

Next week we will talk about some testing that can be done to look for PVD, either to confirm the suspicion based on your symptoms, or to find it even if there are no symptoms. We will also get to some treatments, but you know what is at the top of the list: GOOD BLOOD SUGAR CONTROL!!!

Until next week, stay safe and healthy Vincies!

Anita Ramsetty, MD

Medical Director Endocrine Care Group

Tel: 843-798-4227