Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD) may affect any blood vessel outside of the heart including arteries, veins, or lymphatic vessels. Organs supplied by these vessels, such as the brain, and legs, may not get enough blood flow for proper function. Legs and feet are most commonly affected.  PVD restricts blood flow to tissue due to narrowing of vessel and often spasm.

PVD is also called peripheral arterial disease and is a slow progressive circulation disorder.

What is the cause?

The most common cause of PVD is atherosclerosis, the build-up of plaque inside the artery wall. Plaque reduces the amount of blood flow to the limbs. It also decreases the oxygen and nutrients available to the tissue. Blood clots may form on the artery walls, further decreasing the inner size of the blood vessel and block off major arteries.

Other causes of PVD may include:

  • Injury to the arms or legs
  • Irregular anatomy of muscles or ligaments
  • Infection
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Kidney disease

People with coronary artery disease (CAD) may also have PVD.

Risk Factors:

  • Aged beyond 50
  • Any history of heart disease and CAD
  • Male gender
  • Post-menopausal women
  • Family history of high cholesterol, high BP or PVD

Risk factors could be addressed and therefore less susceptible are:

  • High BP
  • High Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • CAD
  • Smoking
  • Regular physical activity

If you smoke this creates a greater risk due to impaired blood flow as with diabetics.


Depends on where the artery is blocked or clogged and the extent of blockage.

  • Weak pulses in legs and feet
  • Hair loss on legs
  • Impotence
  • Numbness, weakness, or heavy feeling in muscles
  • Skin colour – reddish blue discolouration of extremities including decreased skin temperature, or thinness or shiny skin on legs and feet.
  • Trouble with wound healing especially over heels and ankles
  • Restricted mobility
  • Severe pain when artery is very narrow or blocked
  • Legs look very pale when elevated
  • Ulcers on toes, legs and feet
  • When at rest, a burning or aching feeling can be present especially in toes and also at night when laying down.
  • Thickened, opaque toenails
  • Gangrene – necrotic tissue due to poor blood flow

Some of the above symptoms could be present in other health disorders so better to obtain a medical diagnosis, having said that I can often tell if people have PVD, but if they present with other health problems and are taking pharmaceutical medications it is wise to obtain a medical report so you have this verified in writing to ensure no other disease has been overlooked.  Get a second medical opinion of you feel this is warranted.

How can PVD be treated medically?

Control symptoms and aim to slow down progression of the disease and potential heart attacks, strokes or other complications.

Lifestyle and diet must be address (as in all heath disorders whether chronic/acute, minor or severe).  Daily walking is encouraged and swimming and/or walking in a pool.  How much dietary/nutritional advice your doctor gives you is another question!

Smokers must quit – often with conventional patches.

Existing health disorders must be addressed and conventional medications would be offered for diabetes, CAD, High BP and cholesterol etc.

Blood thinners – anti platelet drugs may be administered.  Medicines that improve blood flow and relax vessel walls.

Surgery such as:

  • Vascular surgery
  • Angioplasty
  • Atherectomy
  • Laser angioplasty
  • Stent
  • Balloon angioplasty

Type of surgery would be dependent on extent of PVD and any other symptoms/disorders.

How natural therapies can help

Helps by supporting arterial health and reduce symptoms.  Must include some medical assistance.

Need to quit smoking?  Including passive smoking.  Hypnotherapy, acupuncture, homoeopathy and herbal medicine.  I have helped a few people resolve smoking habits with homeopathy and herbal medicine.

Dietary changes, reduced fats (we do need fats/oils so care must be taken in type).

Eliminate sucrose and many packaged/preserved “foods” – cut back even on fructose, many people consume far too much fruit and fruit juice – latter highly concentrated, we don’t need this excess.

Increase vegetables and salads, make sure you have a wide range for variety and if you consume fish/poultry etc only free range and don’t over consume too many of same types of foods even if you know they are healthy.  Avocado is an example it is quite high in copper and can affect your zinc levels, so please don’t eat a whole one daily if you are vegan/vegetarian!

Herbal remedies/support for BP, Cholesterol levels, sweet craving (hair mineral test to ascertain if any imbalances here), also heavy metal testing (which can affect how you absorb healthy minerals.  If results indicate some heavy metals then homoeopathy has helped people eliminate them.

K2 is often used in conjunction with other synergistic nutrients that help its absorption. Don’t self-prescribe K2 as high levels can be toxic.  There are few good products on the market and it works far better when combined with certain nutritional formulas which are practitioner only products working on mitochondria.

Mitochondria takes nutrients from the cell and breaks it down transforming it into energy. This is vital for healthy cellular function and some specific nutrients stimulate this activity enhancing K2 assimilation.  Please do not get confused with K1 found in plant sources. K2 is from animal’s foods and some fermented sources such as natto.  Be aware if you have a deficiency and experience arterial plaque, or any disorders mentioned you really need to supplement to ensure more efficient results.

Weight loss/management through diet, exercise but also what many people over look is a balanced metabolism and especially endocrine system.  You can walk 20k daily but if your adrenals and thyroid are not working correctly you may increase in weight and become exhausted and frustrated with your attempts.

Cease or limit alcohol. Good quality red wine with dinner is actually quite healthy.  Also, using alcohol for therapeutic benefits was more common in years gone by. A dram of whisky prior to bed will help lower BP, but 2 glasses will increase it!

Herbalists have used specific herbs to help with circulatory health and integrity of vessel walls for a long time.  To formulate them in a balanced synergistic way is very important and combine with other vital nutrients such as Vitamin C, bioflavonoids, quercetin and Rutin.  There are not many supplements in Australia containing a good quantity of Rutin.  Topical creams or herbal drops are applied daily.

Stroke ice cubes upwards from ankle to knee daily, this helps with toning blood vessels and any tiny broken capillaries.  Also elevate if you have been walking a while.

Rebalance the body with Bowen therapy and/or acupuncture.  Often such people have long standing symptoms/disorders and it’s important to help the body rebalance which in turn, enhances all the above dietary/lifestyle change and natural remedies.


Written by Lyn Craven. Lyn is a naturopath, Bowen therapist and an Energy/Reiki therapist, meditation teacher, corporate health facilitator and presenter for health expos. She is also a health writer and has produced a meditation CD for stress, anxiety and insomnia.

You can book an appointment with Lyn at –

Join Lyn on Facebook –