Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a broad term referring to disorders affecting the blood vessels carrying blood to and from the arms and legs. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a specific issue affecting veins distant from the heart.

PVD can describe several different disorders, while DVT is a particular condition where a blood clot forms in a deep vein.

This article describes PVD and DVT and how they differ. It compares their causes, symptoms, and treatment options, and more.

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PVD describes a range of disorders that affect the blood vessels outside the chest and abdomen. These include the arteries and veins carrying blood to and from the arms, hands, legs, and feet.

PVD typically involves the narrowing, blocking, or spasming of these blood vessels. These changes reduce blood circulation to the body parts where these arteries or veins are.

PVD includes venous disease and peripheral artery disease (PAD). When PVD just affects the arteries, doctors tend to refer to it as PAD. As PAD is so common, affecting nearly 200 million people worldwide, many people use PAD and PVD interchangeably.

DVT is when a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins, which are the veins furthest away from the surface of the body.

DVT typically occurs in the large veins in the legs or pelvis.

If part of the blood clot breaks off, it can travel to the lungs. This is known as a pulmonary embolism (PE). PE can be life threatening, so it is important for people to seek treatment for DVT.

DVT is one type of PVD. The formation of a blood clot in one of the deep veins leads to that vein becoming narrower or blocked, reducing the circulation in the area.

However, there are several other forms of PVD. These include PAD and chronic venous insufficiency. The causes, symptoms, and treatments for DVT and other PVDs can differ.

Many of the causes and risk factors for PVD also apply to DVT.


The causes and risk factors for PAD can vary depending on the type.


A common cause of PVD is the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries, known as atherosclerosis. This can lead to PAD.

Risk factors for PAD include:

Venous disease

Another form of PVD is chronic venous insufficiency, which occurs when valves in the veins do not work correctly. This either blocks blood flow or allows it to flow backward and pool in the veins.

Risk factors for venous disease include:

  • having overweight
  • using tobacco
  • use of oral birth control
  • pregnancy
  • prolonged sitting or standing


DVT occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins. It can happen if circulation in the deep veins slows down or if the lining of the vein becomes damaged.

Factors that increase the risk of blood clots forming include:

  • being an older adult
  • having a blood clotting disorder or a family history of one
  • having a sedentary lifestyle
  • heart problems

Different forms of PVD share many symptoms. People will often experience these in the limbs, particularly in the legs.


The causes and risk factors for PVD can vary depending on the type.


Symptoms of PAD include:

It is worth noting that some people with PAD will not experience any symptoms.

Venous disease

Symptoms of venous disease include:

  • pain
  • dull aching or cramping in the legs
  • itching
  • tingling
  • pain that worsens upon standing
  • swelling
  • varicose veins
  • changes in skin texture, such as thickening or hardening


The main symptoms of DVT are:

  • pain, aching, or tenderness
  • swelling
  • increased warmth
  • flushed or discolored skin

Doctors will first examine a person’s symptoms and ask about their medical history.


Doctors can use a combination of different imaging and blood tests to examine blood flow and the substances present in the blood.


Doctors use imaging tests, such as ultrasounds, venograms, MRIs, and CT scans, to help locate blood clots.

Treating different forms of PVD, including DVT, will involve relieving any symptoms that appear. Aside from this, the treatment a doctor will suggest will depend on the type of PVD.


Regular physical activity, diet adjustments, and wearing compression stockings may help with most forms of PVD. Some forms of medication can also help improve blood flow.

For severe cases or where a damaged vessel is behind the issue, doctors may recommend surgery to unblock or repair an artery or vein.

PVD can also cause sores to appear. Skin and wound care is important in maintaining skin health to avoid infection. A doctor may suggest applying topical moisturizers and topical steroids.

A person can speak with a doctor about what treatments will be best depending on the type of PVD.


DVT treatment aims to reduce, remove, and prevent blood clots.

Blood-thinning drugs can prevent blood clots from forming as well as existing blood clots from growing. Doctors may be able to dissolve large clots with medications called thrombolytics.

In severe cases or where someone cannot take this medication, doctors may need to access the vein to either remove or catch blood clots.

Learn more about treating and managing blood clots.

PVD and DVT can lead to severe complications, such as heart disease and PE. However, receiving treatment and managing these conditions make a big difference to their outlook.


PVD tends to be a long-term condition. Without treatment, forms of PVD such as PAD and chronic venous insufficiency can progress.

It is important for people with PVD to continue to receive care and manage their conditions to avoid complications.

Experts note that 5 years after developing PAD, nearly 80% of people will have stable muscle pain symptoms. Around 20–30% of people with PAD will die within 5 years, mainly due to cardiovascular issues.

A person can discuss how PVD will affect them with a doctor.


If people with DVT receive treatment quickly, the outlook tends to be favorable.

Around 1 in 3 people who have DVT have a recurrence in the 10 years after. This makes it particularly important to follow a doctor’s treatment and recovery plan.

While people are unable to alter some of the risk factors for PVD and DVT, there are many lifestyle adjustments people can make to help prevent these conditions. These include:

The following are common questions about DVT and PVD.

How can a person tell the difference between a blood clot and leg pain?

Blood clots are not always painful. They can also cause a leg to swell up and the skin to change color. However, there are many different causes of leg pain.

What does PVD look like in the legs?

PVD can cause a leg to swell and the skin to change color. In some cases, leg hair can stop growing. Open sores and varicose veins may also appear. However, PVD does not always cause symptoms.

What are the different types of PVD?

Different types of PVD include peripheral artery disease, chronic venous insufficiency, and deep vein thrombosis.

It is important for people to speak with a doctor if they experience any unexplained symptoms of PVD.

The sooner a person receives treatment, the more positive their outlook will be.

PVD refers to a range of conditions that affect the arteries and veins in the extremities, such as the legs, arms, hands, and feet. DVT is one form of PVD.

There are some common causes, symptoms, and treatments for different forms of PVD. The treatment for DVT specifically focuses on removing or preventing blood clots from developing.

PVD can result in some serious health problems without treatment. As a result, people should speak with a doctor whenever they suspect they may have developed one of these conditions.