Peripheral Vascular Disease or
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
Peripheral Vascular Disease, also known as Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) or Peripheral Artery Occlusive Disease (PAOD), is a narrowing of the peripheral arteries, most commonly in the arteries of the pelvis and legs. PAD is similar to coronary artery disease (CAD) and carotid artery disease. All three of these conditions are caused by narrowed and blocked arteries in various critical regions of the body.
Hardened arteries (or atherosclerosis) in the coronary artery region, restricts the blood supply to the heart muscle. Carotid artery disease refers to atherosclerosis in the arteries that supply blood to the brain.
People with peripheral arterial disease have four to five times more risk of heart attack or stroke.
Untreated PAD can be dangerous because it can lead to painful symptoms, gangrene, loss of a leg, increased risk of coronary artery disease and carotid atherosclerosis. Because of the increased risk for heart attack or stroke, people at risk for PAD should consult their doctor so an early diagnosis can be made.
Symptoms of PAD
Symptoms of PAD are often mistaken for something else and it often goes undiagnosed by medical professionals. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all with PAD.
The most common symptoms of PAD are:
- Cramping, pain or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles while walking or climbing stairs. Typically, this pain goes away with rest and returns when you walk again.
- Foot or toe wounds that won't heal or heal very slowly
- A marked decrease in the temperature of your lower leg or foot particularly compared to the other leg or to the rest of your body
Risk Factors for PAD
- Smoking puts an individual at a significantly higher risk for PAD.
- Diabetes puts an individual at a significantly higher risk for PAD.
- People with high blood pressure or high cholesterol are at risk for PAD.
- PAD can sometimes be confused with neuropathy, a common diabetic symptom that is a burning or painful discomfort of the feet or thighs. If you are a diabetic, let your doctor know if you are having such recurring pain.
Diagnosis of PAD
- PAD diagnosis begins with a physical examination, where a healthcare professional will check for weak pulses in the legs. The exam may include the following:
- Ankle-brachial index (ABI): a painless exam that compares the blood pressure in your feet to the blood pressure in your arms to determine how well your blood is flowing.
- Doppler and Ultrasound (Duplex) imaging: a non-invasive method that visualizes the artery with sound waves and measures the blood flow in an artery to indicate the presence of a blockage.
- CT Scan: a non-invasive test that can show the arteries in your abdomen, pelvis and legs. This test is particularly useful in patients with pacemakers or stents.
- Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA): a non-invasive test that gives information similar to that of a CT without using X-rays.
- Angiography: During an angiogram, a contrast agent is injected into the artery and X-rays are taken to show blood flow, arteries in the legs and to pinpoint any blockages that may be present. Most cases of PAD can be managed with lifestyle changes and medication
Most PAD can be treated with lifestyle changes and medications. When lifestyle changes and medications are not enough, your doctor may recommend surgery for your PAD.
Read more about advanced Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) surgical treatment.
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