Peripheral Arterial Disease of the Legs
The most common cause of peripheral arterial disease is the buildup of Reference plaque Opens New Window on the inside of arteries. Plaque is made up of excess cholesterol, calcium, and other substances in your bloodstream. Over time, Reference plaque builds up Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window along the inner walls of the arteries, including the arteries that feed your legs. The plaque deposits decrease the space through which oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood can flow. Poor blood flow "starves" the muscles and other tissues in the lower body.
This process of plaque buildup—called Reference atherosclerosis Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window or "hardening of the arteries"—usually happens throughout the body, including the leg arteries, Reference coronary arteries Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window, and Reference carotid arteries Opens New Window.
Atherosclerosis gradually develops over a lifetime. High cholesterol, Reference high blood pressure Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window, and smoking contribute to atherosclerosis and peripheral arterial disease.
In very rare cases, peripheral arterial disease can be unrelated to atherosclerosis and caused instead by inflammation of the blood vessels (vasculitis) and old injuries that damaged blood vessels.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference May 17, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Reference David A. Szalay, MD - Vascular Surgery