Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD, Peripheral Artery Disease, Peripheral Arterial Disease, PAD)

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI
    Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI

    Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI

    Dr. Kulick received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Southern California, School of Medicine. He performed his residency in internal medicine at the Harbor-University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and a fellowship in the section of cardiology at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiology.

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What are potential complications of peripheral artery disease?

In rare cases, the decreased circulation to the extremities characteristic of peripheral artery disease can lead to open sores that do not heal, ulcers, gangrene, or other injuries to the extremities. These areas that do not receive adequate blood flow are also more prone to develop infections and, in extreme cases, amputation may be necessary.

What are the other causes of peripheral vascular diseases?

A number of conditions such as vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels, occurring either as a primary condition or associated with connective tissue diseases such as lupus) may cause damage to blood vessels throughout the body. Injuries to blood vessels (from accidents such as auto accidents or sports injuries), blood-clotting disorders, and damage to blood vessels during surgery can also lead to tissue ischemia.

Tissue ischemia can also occur in the absence of atherosclerosis or other abnormalities of arteries. One example of a condition in which the blood vessels themselves are not damaged is Raynaud's disease, which is believed to occur due to spasms in blood vessels brought on bystress, tobacco smoking, or a cold environment.

Since atherosclerosis of the peripheral arteries (PAD) is by far the most common cause of peripheral vascular disease, the rest of this article focuses upon peripheral artery disease.

Who is at risk for peripheral artery disease?

Peripheral artery disease (or peripheral arterial disease) is a common condition that affects approximately ten million adults in the U.S. About 5% of people over the age of 50 are believed to suffer from peripheral artery disease. Peripheral artery disease is slightly more common in men than in women and most often occurs in older persons (over the age of 50). The known risk factors for peripheral artery disease are those that predispose to the development of atherosclerosis. Risk factors for peripheral artery disease include:

In peripheral artery disease, the risk factors are additive, so that a person with a combination of two risk factors -- diabetes and smoking, for example -- has an increased likelihood of developing more severe peripheral artery disease than a person with only onerisk factor.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/3/2015
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