Peripheral Artery Disease Symptoms

Peripheral artery disease affected between eight and 12 million people in the United States. While the majority of people with the disease don’t even know they have it, they have the same five-year mortality rate as people with breast and colorectal cancer.

Q. What is peripheral artery disease and what causes it?

A. Your peripheral arteries carry blood away from the heart to your arms and legs. The peripheral arteries in your legs are extensions of the largest artery in your body, the aorta. The aorta travels down through your abdominal region and branches off into the iliac arteries of each leg. The iliac arteries divide into smaller arteries and deliver blood down your legs to your toes.

Healthy peripheral arteries are smooth and unobstructed, allowing blood to flow freely to the legs and provide oxygen, glucose and other nutrients that your legs need. Typically with age, the peripheral arteries build up plaque, a sticky substance made up of mostly fat and cholesterol.

Plaque narrows the passageway within the arteries and causes them to become stiff. Peripheral arterial disease results when the peripheral arteries become too narrow or obstructed and limit the blood flow.

Q. What are the causes and risk factors of PAD?

A. The risk factors for PAD are similar to those for heart disease. They include age, gender, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, lack of exercise and a family history of vascular problems. Regarding gender, males are more prone to the condition than females.

Q. What are the symptoms of PAD?

A. There may be no symptoms in the early stages of PAD. If left untreated, PAD can cause pain or aching in the legs. If left untreated, PAD can cause pain or aching in the legs, difficulty walking, resting pain in the foot at night, non-healing sores or infections of the toes or feet, and can lead to limb loss in its most severe form. In addition, it can be associated with other serious arterial conditions leading to heart attacks and stroke.

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Q. How is PAD diagnosed?

A. The good news is that PAD can be diagnosed by a simple, noninvasive Doppler screening.

Q. What are the treatment options for PAD?

A. Depending on the severity of the patient’s condition, treatment options may include medical management, minimally invasive endovascular angioplasty and peripheral stenting, and open bypass surgery.

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