What is peripheral artery disease?

Peripheral artery disease is a condition that causes leg pain, worsens with activity, and is relieved by rest–this is called claudication. It is the result of blocked blood vessels that carry blood to the legs. The blockage is due to plaque build-up in the leg arteries. The disease is also abbreviated as PAD.

Some symptoms of PAD:

The symptoms of PAD include pain in the back of the lower leg, worsened with exercise and relieved by rest. PAD can cause pain in the feet, thighs and buttocks as well. Other symptoms include difficulty walking up stairs, erectile problems in men and a decrease in female arousal.

The basic test for PAD is an ankle-brachial index or ABI where the blood pressure in the arms are compared to the blood pressure in the legs The other common test performed is an ultrasound of the leg blood vessels.

Treatment includes:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Controlling diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Severe symptoms can be treated with angioplasty and stenting–in this procedure, a balloon is used to open up the blocked blood vessel and a tiny mesh tube called a stent is left in place to prop the blood vessel open
  • Medications can also control pain and improve the circulation
  • Exercise that can improve circulation
  • Surgery can be done where a bypass around the blockage is made either by using other blood vessels in the body or a manmade graft is inserted

Who is at higher risk for PAD?

People with diabetes, those that smoke, have a history of high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are at the greatest risk of developing PAD.

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