What to Know About Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is the narrowing or blockage of the peripheral arteries that carry blood from the heart to your limbs. PAD results in not enough blood flow getting to the limbs, causing symptoms including leg pain when walking.

Recognize the Symptoms of PAD
The most typical symptom of PAD is pain or cramping in the legs (or arms) when you walk, climb stairs, or engage in other physical activity. The pain will typically go away after a few minutes of rest. It’s most often felt in the calf but may also be noticed in the hips, thighs, or buttocks.

Some people with PAD have no leg pain but may experience numbness, weakness, or coldness in one lower leg or foot. Other signs to watch for include smooth, shiny skin; decreased or absent pulses in the feet; sores or ulcers that don’t heal in the toes, feet, or legs; pain when using your arms (such as aching and cramping when doing manual tasks like writing or knitting); and erectile dysfunction in men.

Cause and Risk Factors
PAD is primarily caused by the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which is called atherosclerosis. Other health conditions and disorders of arteries can mimic the symptoms of PAD, and not all PAD is due to atherosclerosis. PAD can happen in any blood vessel, but it is more common in the legs than in the arms.

The risks factors for PAD include:

  • smoking
  • high blood pressure
  • atherosclerosis
  • diabetes
  • high cholesterol
  • age above 60 years

Both men and women are affected by PAD, with African Americans experiencing an increased risk. To help prevent PAD or improve symptoms of PAD, get plenty of physical activity and don’ tobacco. Work with your doctor to control high blood pressure and manage high blood cholesterol and diabetes.

See a Doctor to Diagnose and Treat PAD
Patients with PAD are at risk for developing coronary artery disease and cerebrovascular disease, which could lead to a heart attack or stroke. It’s crucial that you see a vascular specialist for diagnosis if you think you may have symptoms.

The doctor may do a noninvasive ankle-brachial index (ABI) test that measures the blood pressure in the ankles and compares it with the blood pressure in the arms, while you’re resting and after exercise. He or she may also do imaging tests such as ultrasound, magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), and computed tomographic (CT) angiography.

Your doctor may recommend that you take aspirin or other similar antiplatelet medicines in order to prevent serious complications from PAD and associated atherosclerosis. You may also need to take medicine to reduce cholesterol. If you smoke, talk with your doctor about ways to help you quit smoking. In some cases, surgery will be required to bypass blocked arteries.

The Experts at MSA Can Help
The talented and experienced surgeons and staff at Muskegon Surgical Associates Vascular Services provide exceptional, state-of-the-art care for a variety of conditions including PAD. Contact us to schedule an appointment if you are experiencing PAD symptoms or have any other vascular concerns.

American Heart Association