Peripheral Arterial Disease

  • Peripheral Arterial disease

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is when your arteries begin to narrow. It's a common problem that affects 9% of the population, but will only cause symptoms or problems in a quarter of those people.

What is Peripheral Arterial Disease?

Arteries carry blood away from the heart and supply essential nutrients and oxygen to every part of your body. Normally the artery is a hollow tube and the inside has a smooth surface for the blood to travel over. When the blood is travelling through the artieries it can leave behind deposits known as plaque, which stick to the inside of the artery. This is known as atherosclerosis.


Gradually, over many years, these deposits can build-up and cause the inside of the artery to narrow. This is often called 'furring up of your arteries', though health care professionals call this 'occlusive disease'.  Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is the name given to occlusive dissease that occurs in the peripheral or outer arteries of the body, such as those in the legs. However, if you have been diagnosed with PAD, it is likely that the same process will be happening in the arteries which supply your brain and heart; leaving you at higher risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

What are the symptoms?


One of the first symptoms of peripheral arterial disease that you may experience is an ache or cramp in your leg muscles when you're walking. Most commonly this occurs in the calf muscle, but can also occur in the thigh or buttock muscles. This symptom is called intermittant claudication.


In some people the disease progresses and the amount of blood able to go down the leg is not enough to supply the nutrients and oxygen to their feet. In cases like this, the individual will get pain in their feet even when they're not moving. This is known as rest pain and is a symptom of critical limb ischaemia.


Without nutrients and oxygen getting down into the foot, the skin is unable to function properly and can break down into an ulcer.  If an individual has skin breakdown they are at risk of losing their foot or leg by amputation.

Is the condition preventable? If so, how?

The main causes of peripheral arterial disease are smoking, diabetes, hypertension, high cholestrol and poor diet leading to being overweight. Tackling all these factors will reduce your risk of developing peripheral arterial disease. 


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