Peripheral Vascular Disease


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 vascular disease (PVD), commonly referred to as peripheral artery disease (PAD) or peripheral artery occlusive disease (PAOD) or peripheral obliterative arteriopathy, refers to the obstruction of large arteries not within the coronary, aortic arch vasculature, or brain. PVD can result from atherosclerosis, inflammatory processes leading to stenosis, an embolism, or thrombus formation. It causes either acute or chronic ischemia (lack of blood supply). Often PVD is a term used to refer to atherosclerotic blockages found in the lower extremity.

PVD 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.


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