Conditions InDepth: Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
Arteries carry blood to all the organs of your body. Therefore, any condition that damages arteries can damage the organs to which they supply blood, such as the heart or brain.
When the affected arteries are the ones that carry blood to the legs and arms, the resulting condition is called peripheral artery disease (PAD).
Peripheral artery disease is similar to
Atherosclerosis begins in the teen years as deposits of fat and cholesterol in the walls of large arteries. Over decades these deposits (plaques) enlarge, break down, and calcify, narrowing or completely clogging the artery. The deposits can also produce fragments that break off, travel down the artery, and cause an obstruction to blood flow. If the artery is a coronary artery supplying the heart, a heart attack may result. If the artery supplies the brain, a stroke can occur. If the artery supplies the legs and feet, this may result in claudication or other signs of lack of blood supply to the extremities.
Claudication affects 2% of people over 65. Of these, only 25% will have the disease severe enough to require a procedure to reopen clogged arteries. Those at greatest risk include people with
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Last reviewed July 2008 by
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