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Peripheral Vascular Disease (cont.)

Peripheral Vascular Disease Causes

The most common cause of peripheral vascular disease is peripheral artery disease.

  • Peripheral artery disease is due to atherosclerosis. This is a gradual process in which a fatty material builds up inside the arteries.
  • The fatty material mixes with calcium, scar tissues, and other substances and hardens slightly, forming plaques of arteriosclerosis.
  • These plaques block, narrow, or weaken the vessel walls.
  • Blood flow through the arteries can be restricted or blocked totally.

Other causes of peripheral vascular disease include the following:

  • Blood clot: A blood clot can block a blood vessel (thrombus/emboli).
  • Diabetes: Over the long term, the high blood sugar level of persons with diabetes can damage blood vessels. This makes the blood vessels more likely to become narrowed or weakened. Plus, people with diabetes frequently also have high blood pressure and high fats in the blood, which accelerates the development of atherosclerosis.
  • Inflammation of the arteries: This condition is called arteritis and can cause narrowing or weakening of the arteries. Several autoimmune conditions can develop vasculitis, and, besides the arteries, other organ systems are also affected.
  • Infection: The inflammation and scarring caused by infection can block, narrow, or weaken blood vessels. Both salmonellosis (infection with Salmonella bacteria) and syphilis have been two infections traditionally known to infect and damage blood vessels.
  • Structural defects: Defects in the structure of a blood vessel can cause narrowing. Most of these cases are acquired at birth, and the cause remains unknown. Takayasu disease is a vascular disease affecting the upper vessels of the body and affects usually Asian females.
  • Injury: Blood vessels can be injured in an accident such as a car wreck or a bad fall.

Risk factors for peripheral vascular disease (and atherosclerotic disease of all arteries throughout the body):

  • Positive family history of premature heart attacks or strokes
  • Older than 50 years
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Inactive (sedentary) lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol or LDL (the "bad cholesterol"), plus high triglycerides and low HDL (the "good cholesterol")

People who have coronary heart disease or a history of heart attack or stroke generally also have an increased frequency of having peripheral vascular disease.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/30/2014
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Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a nearly pandemic condition that has the potential to cause loss of limb or even loss of life.

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