Peripheral Vascular Disease


Image caption: In peripheral artery disease, plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries outside of the heart, often blocking blood supply to the arms and legs. Seen in this image is a cut-away into an artery in the body where the hardened, fatty material has accumulated in the lumen, or opening. This plaque impedes on the necessary tube structure of the artery, preventing blood from flowing through. As a result, one can experience poor circulation or tissue death in the part of the body where that artery's destination lies. Plaque buildup is characteristic of atherosclerosis, and can happen as a result of fatty materials such as cholesterol in the blood. As the cholesterol travels through the blood stream, it sticks to the artery walls and accumulates over time. It becomes hard and calcified, leading to detrimental results.

Peripheral Arterial Disease

Also called: PAD

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) happens when there is a narrowing of the blood vessels outside of your heart. The cause of PAD is atherosclerosis. This happens when plaque builds up on the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the arms and legs. Plaque is a substance made up of fat and cholesterol. It causes the arteries to narrow or become blocked. This can reduce or stop blood flow, usually to the legs. If severe enough, blocked blood flow can cause tissue death and can sometimes lead to amputation of the foot or leg.

The main risk factor for PAD is smoking. Other risk factors include older age and diseases like diabetes, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

Many people who have PAD don't have any symptoms. If you have symptoms, they may includ

  • Pain, numbness, achiness, or heaviness in the leg muscles. This happens when walking or climbing stairs.
  • Weak or absent pulses in the legs or feet
  • Sores or wounds on the toes, feet, or legs that heal slowly, poorly, or not at all
  • A pale or bluish color to the skin
  • A lower temperature in one leg than the other leg
  • Poor nail growth on the toes and decreased hair growth on the legs
  • Erectile dysfunction, especially among men who have diabetes

PAD can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, and transient ischemic attack.

Doctors diagnose PAD with a physical exam and heart and imaging tests. Treatments include lifestyle changes, medicines, and sometimes surgery. Lifestyle changes include dietary changes, exercise, and efforts to lower high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Peripheral artery disease (PAD), also known as peripheral artery occlusive disease (PAOD), peripheral obliterative arteriopathy, or (less specifically) as peripheral vascular disease (PVD) refers to the obstruction of large arteries not within the coronary, aortic arch vasculature, or brain. PAD can result from atherosclerosis, inflammatory processes leading to narrowing, an embolism, or blood clot formation. It causes either acute or chronic ischemia (lack of blood supply). Often PAD is a term used to refer to atherosclerotic blockages found in the lower extremity (legs or feet), where it can cause arterial insufficiency ulcers.

PAD also includes a subset of diseases classified as microvascular diseases resulting from episodal narrowing of the arteries (Raynaud's phenomenon), or widening thereof (erythromelalgia), i.e. vascular spasms.



The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.