WHAT IS PAD?
Peripheral Arterial Disease
Peripheral Arterial Disease–PAD–is a common, yet serious, disease. It occurs when extra fats and cholesterol circulating in the blood collect in the walls of the arteries and reduce or block the flow of blood to your limbs. PAD is most commonly seen in the legs, and nearly everyone who has PAD suffers from an inability to walk as fast or as far as they once could.
Early treatment of P.A.D. can restore your mobility, decrease your risk for heart attack and stroke, and possibly save your life. Often, people experiencing symptoms of PAD–like pain or cramping in the legs–do not report it because they think it is a natural part of aging.
WHAT CAUSES PAD?
Plaque buildup in the arteries that supply blood to the limbs is the cause of PAD, as shown in the illustrations at the right. In many cases, however, the exact cause of this buildup is unknown.
Besides the unknown factors behind plaque buildup, there are also several conditions and habits that raise your chance of developing the disease. Some are preventable. Others are not.
Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients from your heart to the rest of your body. Healthy arteries are flexible and elastic. Over time, however, too much pressure in your arteries can make the walls thick and stiff — sometimes restricting blood flow to your organs and tissues. This process is called arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
Atherosclerosis is a specific type of arteriosclerosis, but the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Atherosclerosis refers to the buildup of fats and cholesterol in and on your artery walls (plaques), which can restrict blood flow.
These plaques can also burst, triggering a blood clot. Although atherosclerosis is often considered a heart problem, it can affect arteries anywhere in your body. Atherosclerosis is a preventable and treatable condition.