Epidemiology of peripheral arterial disease

C Diehm, S Kareem, H Lawall
VASA. Zeitschrift Für Gefässkrankheiten 2004, 33 (4): 183-9
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is not an uncommon but a commonly neglected condition by many medical practitioners. It is a disease that threatens not only the limb but also life itself! Atherosclerosis is the commonest cause of PAD in the western nations. The cardinal symptom is intermittent claudication (IC) but majority of the patients are asymptomatic. Ankle-brachial pressure index (ABI) is an effective screening tool for PAD. A diminished ABI (< 0.9) is a definite sign of PAD. Its prevalence steadily increases with age. In Germany almost a fifth of the patients aged over 65 years suffer from it. With increasing life expectancy the prevalence of PAD is on the increase. PAD is a manifestation of diffuse and severe atherosclerosis. It is a strong marker of cardiovascular disease; a very strong association exists between PAD and other atherosclerotic disorders such as coronary artery disease (CAD) and cerebrovascular disease (CVD). PAD is an independent predictor of high mortality in patients with CAD. Smoking, diabetes mellitus and advancing age are the cardinal risk factors. A relatively small number of PAD patients lose limbs by amputation. Most paitients with PAD die of either heart attacks or strokes and they die of the former conditions far earlier than controls. PAD still remains an esoteric disease and there is a significant lack of awareness of this condition by many physicians, and therefore under-diagnosed and underestimated. Measures to promote awareness of PAD among physicians and the society in general are needed. Since most patients are asymptomatic and carry potentially significant morbidity and mortality risks, screening for PAD should be made a routine practice at primary care level.

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