Peripheral artery disease (PAD), also called peripheral vascular disease, is a narrowing of the peripheral arteries (arteries outside the heart). It is a common disorder of the circulatory system and affects approximately 10 million people in the United States.
People with peripheral artery disease may not experience symptoms during the beginning stages. The most common early symptom is intermittent discomfort in the legs during activity, including:
- Claudication (pain when walking)
With more advanced stages of peripheral artery disease, symptoms may include:
- Critical limb ischemia (pain in your feet or toes even when you are at rest)
- Painful sores on your feet or toes (left untreated, these sores can become dead tissue, also known as gangrene)
Why Choose The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center?
Ohio State's vascular surgeons are experienced in the use of many technologies for minimally invasive treatment of peripheral artery disease including cryoplasty, mechanical atherectomy, laser atherectomy and pharmacomechanical thrombolysis. For patients who cannot be treated with traditional methods, our vascular surgeons participate in ongoing clinical trials investigating new treatments for certain cases of peripheral artery disease.
What Is Peripheral Artery Disease?
Peripheral artery disease is usually caused by atherosclerosis, a buildup of fatty deposits in artery walls that leads to restricted blood flow. Atherosclerosis affects the heart and can affect arteries throughout the body.
Many people who have PAD have pain in their hips, thighs or calves when engaged in physical activity. The pain often goes away when the exercise stops. This is because the leg muscles used in exercise need more blood flow, and this flow is restricted due to the arteries narrowed by the disorder.
Other symptoms can include:
- Hair loss on the legs
- Slow-healing sores on the lower extremities
- Skin changes on the legs and feet
- Pain in the toes when at rest or lying flat
- Paleness of the legs when they are elevated
- Reddish-blue discoloration of the extremities, and thickened or opaque toenails.
PAD often goes undiagnosed. It is important to inform a physician if you have symptoms of PAD because the condition can lead to increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
What Causes Peripheral Artery Disease?
PAD is frequently detected in people who have coronary artery disease, which is caused by reduced blood flow due to plaque buildup in the arteries. Steps you can take to lower your risk of developing PAD include: