Peripheral Artery Disease

What is Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)?

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a common circulatory problem where narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs. PAD typically occurs when fatty deposits in arteries (atherosclerosis) restrict blood flow, primarily affecting the legs. It’s essential to address PAD promptly as it can be a sign of widespread accumulation of fatty deposits in the arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Common Symptoms of PAD

The hallmark symptom of PAD is leg pain or cramping triggered by physical activity, such as walking, which subsides during rest. This condition is known as claudication. Patients may also report other symptoms including numbness or weakness in the legs, a noticeable decrease in temperature of the affected leg compared to the other, and changes in the color of the legs, ranging from pale to bluish. Some patients might experience sores or wounds on the toes, feet, or legs that heal slowly or not at all.

Risk Factors

Several factors contribute to the development of PAD, with smoking being the most significant. Other risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity. The disease is more prevalent in older adults, particularly those over 50. A family history of PAD, heart disease, or stroke also increases the risk.

Treatment Options

Managing PAD involves a combination of lifestyle changes, medication, and in some cases, surgery. Key lifestyle changes include quitting smoking, which is crucial as tobacco use significantly exacerbates PAD and overall cardiovascular risk. Regular physical activity is also recommended to improve symptoms and overall vascular health.

Medication may include antiplatelet agents like aspirin or clopidogrel to reduce the risk of clots, cholesterol-lowering drugs to manage atherosclerosis, and medications to control blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

In more severe cases, surgical options such as angioplasty, stent placement, or bypass surgery may be necessary to restore adequate blood flow and relieve symptoms. These procedures are typically considered when lifestyle changes and medications do not sufficiently manage the condition.