Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

What is PAD: 

PAD is the narrowing of arteries outside of the heart.  The narrowing prohibits blood from flowing properly to different areas of the body – legs, arms, organs, and head. PAD most commonly occurs in the legs.  Affected areas will have difficulty functioning to maximum capacity.

Symptoms of PAD:

  • Cramping in hips, thighs, or calf muscles after activities such as walking
  • Numbness or weakness in leg
  • Coldness in one foot or leg in comparison to the other
  • Non-healing sores or wounds on toes, feet, or legs
  • Discoloration of legs
  • Hair loss on feet or legs
  • Shiny skin
  • No or weak pulse on legs
  • Erectile dysfunction for men

What causes PAD:  PAD is most frequently caused by atherosclerosis, which is when plaque (fatty deposits) buildups-up in the wall of an artery – this build-up causes poor circulation to different areas of the body – most commonly the legs.  Individuals at risk for developing PAD include:

  • Past or current smokers
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High Blood pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Increasing in age (particularly 50+)
  • Family history of PAD, heart disease or stroke
  • High levels of homocysteine – a protein component that helps build and maintain tissue

Not as frequently, PAD can be caused by inflammation, injury, unusual anatomy, or radiation exposure.

Diagnosing PAD: PAD can be identified by your doctor or a specialist through the following exams or tests:

  • Physical Exam – slow or no pulse in legs, slow or non-healing wounds, abnormal sounds in legs through stethoscope
  • Ankle Brachial Index – a common test that compares blood pressure in legs and arms
  • Ultrasound – imaging used to evaluate and identify blocked or narrowed arteries
  • Angioplasty – using dye injected into the blocked arteries, and imaging such as X-Rays or MRI to view where dye and blood flow is limited
  • Blood tests – a measurement of cholesterol triglycerides, and to check for diabetes

Treatment of PAD:

Medications and/or surgery options can help alleviate symptoms and stop progression of atherosclerosis, lowering risk for stroke and heart attack.   Medications that help manage:  high blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, blood clots, and symptom relief medicines that can treat and manage PAD. Surgery options are also available including:

  • Angioplasty – widening the artery by compressing the plaque build up to the artery walls
  • Stent – metal mesh tube that keeps an narrowed area of an artery open
  • Bypass – uses a manufactured graft to redirect blood flow around the diseased artery