Peripheral Arterial Disease of the Legs - Cause
The most common cause of
peripheral arterial disease is the buildup of
plaque on the inside of arteries. Plaque is made up of
cholesterol, calcium, and other substances in your
bloodstream. Over time, plaque builds up 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. See a picture of
peripheral arterial disease of the legs .
This process of plaque
atherosclerosis or "hardening of the arteries"-usually
happens throughout the body, including the leg arteries,
coronary arteries, and
gradually develops over a lifetime. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and
smoking contribute to atherosclerosis and peripheral arterial disease. For more
information on risk factors, see What Increases Your Risk. See pictures of
how high blood pressure damages arteries .
For more information, see the topic Atherosclerosis.
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.