April 4, 2023: Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a chronic circulatory condition, which, if not treated, can lead to limb amputations. PAD affects nearly 20 million Americans. An estimated 200,000 people, disproportionately from minority communities, suffer avoidable amputations every year.
What is peripheral artery disease?
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is plaque buildup in your leg arteries. Your leg arteries carry oxygen and nutrient-rich blood from your heart to your arms and legs. Other names for this are peripheral vascular disease or peripheral arterial disease.
Shaped like hollow tubes, arteries have a smooth lining that prevents blood from clotting and promotes steady blood flow. When you have peripheral artery disease, plaque (made of fat, cholesterol and other substances) forms gradually inside your artery walls. Slowly, this narrows your arteries. This plaque is also known as atherosclerosis.
Many plaque deposits are hard on the outside and soft on the inside. The hard surface can crack or tear, allowing platelets (disc-shaped particles in your blood that help it clot) to come to the area. Blood clots can form around the plaque, making your artery even narrower.
If plaque or a blood clot narrows or blocks your arteries, blood can’t get through to nourish organs and other tissues. This causes damage ― and eventually death (gangrene) ― to the tissues below the blockage. This happens most often in your toes and feet.
PAD can get worse faster in some people more than others. Many other factors matter, including where in your body the plaque forms and your overall health.