Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is often characterized by a narrowing of the vessels that carry blood to the leg and arm muscles. The most common cause is atherosclerosis (the build-up of plaque inside the artery wall). Plaque reduces the amount of blood flow to the limbs and decreases the oxygen and nutrients available to the tissue. Clots may form on the artery walls, further decreasing the inner size of the vessel and potentially blocking off major arteries.
Other causes of peripheral vascular disease may include trauma to the arms or legs, irregular anatomy of muscles or ligaments, or infection. Persons with coronary artery (arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle) disease are frequently found to also have peripheral vascular disease.