What is Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)?
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition that decreases the flow of blood to the limbs. It affects up to 8 million Americans and has many causes, though it is commonly associated with atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Patients may experience leg pain or discomfort during physical activity, which is known as intermittent claudication. It can be a symptom of other serious conditions, such as coronary artery disease or stroke, and should be evaluated by a clinician if PAD symptoms occur.
PAD is caused by atherosclerosis in large and medium-sized arteries that carry oxygenated blood from the heart to the legs and feet. This results in a restriction of blood flow, especially when the muscles need more energy during exercise. PAD is typically found in people over age 50 and can also be caused by smoking or an unhealthy diet. Risk factors for atherosclerosis include hypertension, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, obesity, family history of heart disease or stroke and physical inactivity.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of PAD include:
- Calf pain during exercise that is relieved by rest
- Cramping leg pain with walking
- Fatigue or heaviness in the legs
- Discoloration on the skin on the legs (pale skin can indicate anemia)
- Cold feet or toes
- Slow-healing sores or ulcers on the feet or toes
- Decrease in hair growth on legs
PAD is often found by chance when a patient has an imaging test for something else. If symptoms appear, further evaluation will help determine the extent of the disease and whether it has caused any damage to the arteries. Treatment may involve controlling risk factors, medications or surgery.
Treatment and Management of PAD
Treatment of peripheral artery disease involves controlling risk factors, medications or surgery. Quitting smoking and avoiding using aspirin and cholesterol-lowering medications may also prevent further damage to blood vessels.
Managing Peripheral Artery Disease:
- Medication Monitoring and Management – Medications are used to treat symptoms of pain in the legs, to improve blood flow in arteries or to stop clots from forming in the arteries. Our on-site pharmacist will help monitor and manage your medications.
- Diet Modification – Weight loss through diet is very important during treatment to reduce symptoms and improve overall health.
- Rehabilitation – Your doctor may prescribe a supervised exercise training program to increase the distance you can walk without pain.
Weight Management and Support – Nutritional counseling and/or a referral to a medically supervised weight loss center at Hunterdon Healthcare are available.
Treating Peripheral Artery Disease:
- Smoking Cessation Program – Quitting smoking can be one of the most important lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of PAD
- Medication Therapy – Medications can be used in a variety of ways depending on the progression of PAD, including preventing blood clots, controlling pain, lowering blood pressure and lowering cholesterol.
- Thrombolytic Therapy – A clot-dissolving drug is injected into artery-blocking blood clots to break up the clot at its source.
- Endovascular Treatments with Balloon Angioplasty – This procedure involves a catheter with a small balloon at its tip that is inserted into the affected blood vessel. Once the catheter is in place the balloon is inflated which presses the plaque buildup into the artery wall, allowing the artery to reopen and stretch, which increases blood flow. A stent may then be placed to help the artery stay open.
- Carotid Endarterectomy – This surgery involves making a small incision on the neck where the artery is blocked and then removing the blockage.
- Bypass Surgery – This surgical technique creates a pathway around a narrowed or blocked artery by using a healthy blood vessel from another part of the body or sometimes a synthetic vessel.
Patients Who Qualify for Our Services
Patients who are over age 50 who have cardiac risk factors or concerns with PAD are good candidates for PAD treatment. Other qualifications include:
- Claudicants (patients with pain in legs while walking)
- Patients with diabetes
- Tobacco users
- Patients with lower extremity ulcers
- Patients with coronary artery disease
- Patients with high blood pressure
- Patients with a family history of cardiovascular disease
At The Center for Vascular Care at HCA, our team provides the resources you need to take control of your heart health. Contact us to make an appointment to discuss your treatment options and personalized diagnosis with one of our specialists today.