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It mainly occurs in the arteries leading to the legs and feet, and is often the result of atherosclerosis, where fatty deposits build up in the walls of arteries.

Symptoms of PAD will depend of which body part is affect, but may include:

  • intermittent or irregular pain during activity and rest, usually in the legs
  • numbness or pins and needles
  • blackened or loss of areas of skin

The impact

PAD affects almost one in every five Australians.1 Approximately 50 per cent of people with PAD show no symptoms, leading to under-diagnosis and under-treatment.2

While PAD is not immediately life threatening, someone with PAD is up to six times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.3

In addition, the reduced blow flow to the limbs can lead to the limb developing gangrene, where it starts to decay and die. There is no cure for gangrene. The only treatment option is to amputate the affected limb to prevent the gangrene from spreading further in the body. Shockingly, every three hours in Australia, one person has an arm or leg amputated due to PAD.4

The risk

Diabetes is the most significant risk factor for PAD. People with type 2 diabetes are three to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular conditions such as PAD, so early detection and management of diabetes is vital.

Other risk factors for PAD include:

  • smoking
  • obesity or being overweight
  • inactivity
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol.

Risk factors that cannot be controlled include age, and medical or family history of cardiovascular disease.

Simple lifestyle changes can help to manage these risk factors, as well as PAD itself after diagnosis.

What is HRI doing?

HRI is tackling the urgent problem of cardiovascular diseases such as PAD from a broad range of research angles.

Our Vascular Complications Group is investigating alternative approaches to stimulate new blood vessel networks to bypass blockages and restore the blood flow necessary for tissue survival. These findings will reduce the devastating impact of vascular diseases in people.​


  1. Conte SM et al; Peripheral Arterial Disease; heart Lung & Circulation April 2018 Volume 27, Issue 4, Pages 427–432.
  2. Au TB et al; Peripheral arterial disease: Diagnosis and management in general practice; Arteries & Veins; Volume 42, No.6, June 2013 Pages 397-400
  3. Better Health Channel; Peripheral vascular disease.
  4. Bergin SM et al; A limb lost every 3 hours: can Australia reduce amputations in people with diabetes? Med J Aust 2012; 197 (4): 197-198.

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