Peripheral Arterial Disease

What is peripheral arterial disease?

Peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, occurs when plaque accumulates in the arteries in the periphery of the body, blocking blood flow to those parts. It most commonly affects the arteries in the legs, but can also affect arteries that supply blood to the kidneys, stomach and arms. PAD raises the risk of heart attack, stroke and coronary heart disease, but it is treatable. While the most common cause of the buildup of plaque in the peripheral arteries, it may also be caused by lifestyle factors such as smoking, high fat and cholesterol in the blood, and high blood pressure, that damage the inner layers of the arteries.

What are the signs and symptoms?

About 10 percent of people with PAD suffer from intermittent claudication, which is pain or numbness in the legs when walking or climbing stairs. Other common symptoms of PAD include weak or absent pulses in the legs or feet, pale or bluish skin color, a lower temperature in one leg than the other, and poor nail and hair growth on the legs. However, many people with PAD don’t have any signs or symptoms.

Methods of treatment

Making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, eating healthy, maintaining a healthy weight and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol can significantly slow the progression of PAD. Medications to lower cholesterol and blood pressure and to prevent blood clots may be prescribed. There are also procedures and surgeries, such as angioplasty, atherectomy and bypass grafting, which may be performed in order to open the artery, remove plaque buildup and prevent future blockages.