Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)

Peripheral vascular disease

Peripheral vascular disease refers to a cluster of conditions in which atherosclerosis, or narrowing of blood vessels, occurs in the peripheral circulation, particularly in the legs. Peripheral vascular disease, unlike myocardial infarction, has a relatively low risk of death but causes substantial disability as affected limbs are at higher risk of amputation and infection.

The link between peripheral vascular disease and tobacco use was described in the early 1900s by Buerger after whom one form of vascular disease, rarely seen among non-smokers, is named.

Tobacco use acts to increase risks and severity of peripheral vascular disease in two ways: first, by accelerating atherosclerosis so vessels narrow and blood flow diminishes, and second, by increasing risks of diabetes, which itself damages vessels by accelerating atherosclerosis.