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Overview of Peripheral Arterial Disease

By John W. Hallett, Jr., MD

Peripheral arterial disease results in reduced blood flow in the arteries of the trunk, arms, and legs.

Most often, doctors use the term peripheral arterial disease to describe poor circulation in the arteries of the legs that results from atherosclerosis. However, peripheral arterial disease can affect other arteries and can have other causes. Disorders affecting arteries that supply the brain are considered separately as cerebrovascular disease.

Peripheral arterial disease may be described as occlusive or functional. Occlusive peripheral arterial disease is due to structural changes that narrow or block arteries. Functional peripheral arterial disease is usually due to a sudden temporary narrowing (spasm) or, rarely, to a widening (vasodilation) of arteries.

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