Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral Arterial Disease (P.A.D.) Overview

Peripheral arterial disease (P.A.D.) is a disease in which plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to the head, organs, and limbs. Plaque contains cholesterol, fat, fibrous tissue, calcium, and other substances in the blood. Plaque can harden and narrow in the arteries over time, limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the organs and other parts of the body, a condition called atherosclerosis.

Symptoms of P.A.D.

Many people with P.A.D. have no symptoms or mistake their symptoms for something else. Symptoms of severe P.A.D. are:

  • Fatigue or muscle cramps while walking: Fatigue or muscle cramps (claudication) in the calf, thigh, hip, or buttock may signal you have P.A.D. The discomfort is usually felt after walking a certain distance and goes away with rest.
  • Pain in the toes or feet while resting: If you have pain in your toes or feet while resting, you may have an advancing case of P.A.D.
  • Open wound on toes or feet: An open wound or ulcer on your toes or feet, often at a pressure point on the foot, can signal a serious case of P.A.D. An ulcer can progress to gangrene. These symptoms require immediate medical attention.

Causes of P.A.D.

The causes of P.A.D. include smoking, high cholesterol or high triglycerides, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney failure, and obesity. Genetic factors also play a role, but are not well understood.

This is a common disease associated with poor health and could lead to death. Managing P.A.D. requires a comprehensive approach to the patient with emphasis on cardiovascular risk factor modification, along with therapies directed at the treatment of limb symptoms.

Treatment Options

  • Medical management
  • Ongoing monitoring of vascular health
  • Diagnostic ultrasound and arteriography
  • Endovascular treatment (angioplasty, stents, atherectomy)
  • Surgical bypass procedures
  • Hybrid therapies
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