PAD/PVD is a medical condition defined by a narrowing of the peripheral arteries, most commonly in the arteries of the pelvis and legs. PAD/PVD is usually caused by atherosclerosis, where plaque made up of deposits of fats, cholesterol and other substances grows large enough to significantly reduce the blood's flow through an artery. If a blockage develops in the peripheral arteries, it can cause pain, changes in skin color, sores or ulcers and difficulty walking. Many people with PAD/PVD have no symptoms or mistake their symptoms for something else. In severe cases, where there is a total loss of circulation to the legs and feet, gangrene and loss of a limb can occur.
Some PAD/PVD patients experience a cramp-like pain (called "intermittent claudication"), when walking, climbing stairs or exercising. This is the muscles' way of warning the body that it isn't receiving enough blood during exercise to meet the increased demand. Typically this “cramp-like” pain goes away when you stop exercising, although this may take a few minutes. Working muscles need more blood flow. Resting muscles can get by with less.
The prevalence of PAD/PVD in the general population is 12–14%. As one becomes older their chances of developing PAD/PVD increases to 20% by the age of 70 and onward. Approximately 1 in 3 diabetics over the age of 50 will develop PAD/PAD. For those who suffer from PAD, there is a 20% or higher risk of suffering a coronary event over a 10 year time span. Approximately 70%–80% of affected individuals are initially asymptomatic. Despite its prevalence and cardiovascular risk implications, only 25% of PAD patients are undergoing treatment. Roughly 4% of PAD/PVD patients will have severe blockages that lead to amputations.