Peripheral Arterial Disease


What is Peripheral Arterial Disease

Peripheral arterial disease (It is also known as peripheral arterial disease, peripheral vascular disease or PAD) is a circulatory issue where blood flow is reduced to your limbs. This is often a result of plaque buildup or atherosclerosis in your arteries. While this disease often occurs in your legs, it may also be reducing blood flow to your heart or brain.

When you develop peripheral arterial disease (PAD), your extremities don’t receive enough blood flow to keep up with demand. This causes symptoms, most notably leg pain when walking (claudication).

Peripheral artery disease is likely to be a sign of fatty deposits in your arteries. This is referred to as atherosclerosis. You often can successfully treat peripheral artery disease by quitting tobacco, exercising and eating a healthy diet.


Approximately half of individuals with peripheral vascular disease experience mild to no symptoms. The most common symptom is leg pain while walking (claudication). The severity of claudication can vary from mild discomfort to debilitating pain.

Signs and symptoms of peripheral artery disease are:

  • Fatigue or cramping of your muscles in the calf, thigh, hip, or buttock may signal you have PAD. Typically the discomfort is felt after walking a certain distance.
  • Leg numbness or weakness
  • Coldness in your lower leg or foot, especially when compared with the other side
  • pain in your toes or feet while resting, may demonstrate an advancing case of PAD.
  • An open wound or ulcer on your toes or feet. This often at a pressure point on the foot. An ulcer can progress to gangrene. These symptoms require immediate medical attention.
  • Hair loss or slower hair growth on your feet and legs
  • Shiny skin on your legs
  • No pulse or a weak pulse in your legs or feet
  • Erectile dysfunction in men

Causes of peripheral vascular disease

Peripheral vascular disease is often caused by fatty deposits or plaque that builds up on the artery walls. This is also known as atherosclerosis and it can reduce your blood flow.

Often, atherosclerosis is discussed with heart disease and can effect any artery. However, when it occurs in arteries supplying your limbs it is referred to as peripheral arterial disease.

The causes of PAD include smoking, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney failure and obesity. It is possible genetic factors could play a role. Less commonly, blood vessel inflammation, injury to your limbs. Also, unusual anatomy of your ligaments or muscles, or radiation exposure can cause PAD.


PAD is a serious condition. Clogged arteries caused by decreased blood flow can cause painful cramping while walking or exercising. Numbness, weakness or tingling in the legs and feet and burning pain in feet and toes are other side effects. In serious cases, Peripheral artery disease of known for causing critical limb ischemia. This is a condition that begins as open sores that do not heal. These sores will progress to tissue depth causing gangrene. Sometimes requiring amputation of the affected limb.

Additionally, a major complication caused by peripheral vascular disease is the risk of a stroke or heart attack. The atherosclerosis that causes the signs and symptoms of peripheral artery disease isn’t limited to your legs. Fat deposits also build up in arteries supplying blood to your heart and brain.


The best way to prevent peripheral arterial disease is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. That means:

  • Quit smoking if you’re a smoker.
  • If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar in good control.
  • Exercise regularly. Aim for 30 to 45 minutes several times a week after you’ve gotten your doctor’s OK.
  • Lower your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, if applicable.
  • Eat foods that are low in saturated fat.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.

PAD Treatments

In order to salvage the limbs, PAD is medically treated with prescribed medications. These medications treat high cholesterol, control blood pressure. As well as, decrease pain while walking in order to increase exercise. They also aim to prevent the buildup of plaque or formation of blood clots.

Peripheral artery disease is also treated using minimally invasive interventional radiology procedures. Angioplasty is opening a blocked artery with a medical balloon, enabling better blood flow. In some cases, the affected arteries need to remain open using a stent, which is a small metal cylinder. This treatment is stenting.

A stent-graft is another procedure. This is when a stent covered with a synthetic fabric is placed in the blood vessels to bypass affected arteries. A third interventional radiology procedure for peripheral artery disease called atherectomy. This procedure uses small catheter at the site of the blockage in order to shave the plaque away from the inside of the artery and remove it from the patient’s body

In some cases, PAD may be serious enough that a medical team has no choice but to perform surgery. This may be the only way to remove blockages or create bypasses around the clogged areas.

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