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Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition that causes poor blood circulation to the arms, legs, kidneys, intestines, and feet. PAD is also known as peripheral vascular disease and arteriosclerosis of the extremities. It can lead to tissue and nerve damage or injury because of reduced or blocked blood...
Introduction
 
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition that causes poor blood circulation to the arms, legs, kidneys, intestines, and feet. PAD is also known as peripheral vascular disease and arteriosclerosis of the extremities. It can lead to tissue and nerve damage or injury because of reduced or blocked blood flow thanks to narrow, hardened blood vessels. You can reduce your risk of PAD by reversing controllable risk factors. PAD is typically treated with medications and surgery, but severe cases may require amputation.
 
Anatomy
 
The heart is connected to several big veins and arteries that branch out from the heart and become tinier as they circulate throughout the body. Arteries and veins are blood vessels that, in a process known as circulation, deliver blood all throughout your body. Arteries carry newly oxygenated blood away and outward from the heart, while veins carry deoxygenated blood from the body back into your heart.
 
Causes
 
Peripheral artery disease results when the arteries that supply the arms, legs, feet, kidneys, and intestines become hard and narrow. Artery hardening usually occurs first in the feet and legs. Calcium deposits on the walls of the arteries cause the arteries to become narrow, hard, and less elastic. This may cause the artery to close completely, stopping blood flow. The artery may struggle and fail to become larger during periods of exercise, when blood flow is crucial. This lack of bloow flow may cause tissue and nerve injury and damage.
 
Symptoms
 
Symptoms of peripheral artery disease are often mistaken for other things. The initial symptoms of PAD typically start in the feet and legs, and may affect either one or both legs to varying extents. The most common symptoms are cramping, tiredness, and leg or hip pain, and typically occur when walking or going up the stairs. You may experience numb legs and feet, difficulty walking, muscle pain in the feet, calves, and thighs, cold feet and legs that appear blue or pale, hair loss on the legs and feet, and weak or absent pulse in the affected limb.
 
Diagnosis
 
Your doctor will check the blood pressure and pulse in your limbs. They will also use imaging tests to determine the condition of your blood vessels.
 
A simple, non-invasive, in-office measurement called ankle-brachial index will determine the elasticity of your arteries. Your doctor may also a Doppler ultrasound, intravascular ultrasound, angiography, or magnetic resonance angiography to get a more detailed view of your blood vessels.
 
Treatment
 
Peripheral artery disease is treated with medications and surgery, and the goal of treatment is to improve circulation and relieve symptoms. Blood thinning medications may be used to increase blood flow by thinning the blood and opening arteries. Your doctor may also recommend surgery to replace an affected artery with a graft, repair the lining of an artery, or bypass the affected area with a synthetic blood vessel. Additional treatments include stents, balloon angioplasty, and laser treatments.
 
Prevention
 
Reduce controllable risk factors of PAD by managing your blood pressure, diabetes, weight, cholesterol level, and activity level. Quit smoking, exercise regularly, and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Attend all of your scheduled doctor’s appointments.
 
Am I At Risk
 
Risk factors for PAD include obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, family history of stroke or heart disease, kidney disease, sedentary lifestyle, and becoming a male 50 years or older.
 
Complications
 
PAD may cause sores, ulcers, or foot or leg infections. In some serious cases, particularly among diabetics, amputation may be required. PAD can cause impotence and dangerous embolisms.