Peripheral Artery Disease

What is Peripheral Artery Disease?

Peripheral Artery Disease, which is also referred to as PAD, is a condition that causes the peripheral arteries to constrict. These include the arteries of the head, arms, stomach, and legs, but the legs are most often affected.

PAD is caused by atherosclerosis. Plaque causes the narrowing and blockage of arteries that are located in critical locations throughout the body. When severe, the blood flow is blocked to the point that the tissues could die, forcing amputation of the leg or foot.

What are the Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease?

Peripheral artery disease doesn’t always cause symptoms. When symptoms do occur, however, they include:

  • Numbness, heaviness, achiness, or pain within the legs, particularly when climbing stairs or walking
  • An absent or a weak pulse in the feet or legs
  • Wounds or sores that develop on the legs, feet, or toes (these will heal poorly or slowly, if at all)
  • One leg could have a lower temperature than the other, or legs could feel colder than arms
  • There could be a bluish color of the skin, or the skin could be pale
  • Decreased hair on the legs, and poor nail growth of the toes

How is Peripheral Artery Disease Treated?

The biggest risk factor for peripheral artery disease is smoking, so quitting will help reduce your risk. Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and high cholesterol are also risk factors for PAD, so treating those conditions with lifestyle changes can also help.

Other treatment options include surgery and procedures to restore blood flow, as well as medications. Medications that could treat PAD include pentoxifylline, aspirin, anti-clotting medicines, and cilostazol.

Some of the lifestyle changes that are recommended to those suffering with PAD include exercise, diet changes, and other efforts that could help to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.

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Last Reviewed:
October 08, 2016
Last Updated:
August 24, 2017
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