Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs, usually the legs. It primarily results from atherosclerosis, a process where fatty deposits (plaques) build up in the arterial walls, gradually narrowing and hardening the arteries and limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the muscles and other tissues.

Causes of Peripheral Arterial Disease:

  1. Atherosclerosis: This is the most common cause of PAD. Over time, plaque made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances can accumulate in the artery walls, restricting or blocking blood flow.
  2. Diabetes: High blood sugar levels associated with diabetes can accelerate the development of atherosclerosis and increase the risk of PAD.
  3. Smoking: Tobacco use contributes to the formation and progression of atherosclerosis and can severely worsen PAD. Smoking causes direct damage to the arterial walls, further reducing blood flow.
  4. Hypertension: High blood pressure can damage arteries over time, making them more susceptible to atherosclerosis.
  5. High Cholesterol: Elevated levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood can contribute to the development of plaque in the arteries.
  6. Age: The risk of PAD increases with age, particularly after 50 years old.
  7. Family History: A family history of PAD, heart disease, or stroke can increase an individual’s risk.
  8. Obesity: Being overweight or obese can exacerbate other risk factors for atherosclerosis and PAD.
  9. Sedentary Lifestyle: Lack of physical activity can worsen other risk factors for PAD, such as high blood pressure and obesity.

Impact of PAD:

The primary consequence of PAD is reduced blood flow, which can cause symptoms such as leg pain when walking (claudication), numbness, weakness, or coldness in the legs. Severe PAD can lead to critical limb ischemia, characterized by severe pain at rest, skin ulcers, and gangrene, which can ultimately require limb amputation if not properly managed.

Understanding and managing the risk factors for PAD is crucial in preventing its onset and progression, and in improving overall cardiovascular health.

Last Update: May 28, 2024