Peripheral arterial disease, also know as PAD or peripheral vascular disease, encompasses arterial disease occuring in areas of the body other than the heart or brain. As a result of plaque buildup or atherosclerosis, arteries become narrowed or blocked. This causes decreased blood flow. Peripheral artery disease often occurs in the legs.
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, the decreased blood flow that results from peripheral artery disease can cause gangrene and even amputation. PAD may also be indicative of an increased risk of heart disease, aortic aneurysms, stroke, hypertension or diabetes.
Studies show that PAD may affect up to 20% of Americans aged 65 or older.
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 when the blocked artery is opened up using 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.
If found early enough, PAD may be possible for a patient to treat it with lifestyle changes. This most often entails quitting smoking, undertaking an exercise program, and focusing on a healthy diet. It is important to note that if you believe you may be suffering from PAD, you must see a doctor. This is potentially a limb and life-threatening condition. Your doctor will determine the best course of treatment for you.