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Diagnosis / Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a circulatory issue that affects nearly nine million people in the United States every year. It is a condition in which the arteries that carry blood to your extremities have narrowed or are blocked, restricting blood flow and causing several potentially serious health problems.

What is Peripheral Artery Disease?

PAD is a result of atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of plaque in the arteries. This plaque buildup, made up of primarily cholesterol and fat, can harden, narrowing or completely blocking your arteries. This limits the flow to your limbs of the oxygen-rich blood necessary for healthy functioning. PAD most often affects the arteries in your legs, but can also affect the arteries carrying blood to your arms, head, stomach and kidneys. It may also be caused by injury or trauma to your limbs, inflammation of the blood vessels, radiation exposure or an anatomical anomaly, but these are much less frequent occurrences.

Peripheral artery disease is a significant issue on its own, however, it can also be a sign of problems in the other arteries in your body, including those that lead to the heart and brain. If those arteries are obstructed, you are at risk for a potentially life-threatening heart attack or stroke.

As PAD progresses, you may start having pain when you are sitting or laying down, and it may even be acute enough to disrupt your sleep. If PAD is left untreated, you may develop what is known as critical limb ischemia, which begins with sores from an injury or infection that won’t heal. Eventually, the lack of blood flow will cause tissue death (gangrene) and may even require amputating the affected limb.

Symptoms of PAD

The most common symptom of PAD is pain or cramping in your legs, called claudication. Claudication usually flares up when you are walking, as your legs are not receiving adequate blood flow to support your activity. The location of the pain is a clue to the location of the narrowed artery – most people suffering from PAD experience pain in their calves. While some people may have little to no symptoms of PAD or claudication, others may have debilitating pain that can interfere with daily activities. Other symptoms of PAD include:

  • Weakness or numbness in your legs
  • Cold feet or lower legs, especially on one side and not the other
  • Color change in your legs (bluish), or skin that starts to look shiny
  • Slower hair growth on your legs
  • Slower toenail growth or brittle nails
  • Ulcers or sores on your legs, feet or toes that won’t heal
  • Erectile dysfunction

If you are experiencing leg pain or cramping, numbness, or other possible PAD symptoms, it is vital that you make an appointment with your doctor so that you can be accurately diagnosed and treated.

Risk Factors and Prevention

People who are smokers or have diabetes are at a higher risk for developing peripheral artery disease because of the already reduced blood flow that results from these conditions. Other factors that may increase your risk for PAD include:

  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Family history of PAD, stroke, or heart disease
  • Age, especially people over 50

While PAD is a serious health condition, it can be prevented, treated, and even reversed. If you have been diagnosed with PAD, lifestyle changes that can help include:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Controlling your diabetes (if you are diabetic)
  • Lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Exercising regularly
  • Maintaining a healthy weight and diet

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of peripheral artery disorder, or want to undergo a preventative screening, call IVC today at 503-612-0498 to schedule an appointment with one of our team of experienced and professional interventional radiologists. We offer treatment for PAD using both surgical and nonsurgical methods, so that you can start the healing and recovery process as soon as possible, preventing more severe problems down the road. You can also read our brochure on Peripheral Arterial Disease.

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