Peripheral Artery Disease Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease refers to the narrowing or blockage of arteries outside the heart and brain, commonly occurring in the legs. This condition is primarily caused by atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque in the arteries, leading to reduced blood flow to the extremities. Other contributing factors include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle.


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sedentary lifestyle


Recognizing the symptoms of PAD is crucial for early detection and intervention:

  • Leg numbness
  • Shiny skin on legs
  • Leg pain or discomfort in buttocks, cramping during physical activity (intermittent claudication)
  • Slow-healing wounds
  • Changes in skin color or temperature
  • Weak pulses in the legs or feet
  • Ulcers and Gangrene

It is also important to note many people who have PAD, do not experience the above symptoms.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How is PAD diagnosed?
  • Blood tests: Blood tests are done to check for conditions related to PAD such as high cholesterol, high triglycerides and diabetes.
  • Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI): This is a common test used to diagnose PAD. It compares the blood pressure in the ankle with the blood pressure in the arm. You may be asked to walk on a treadmill. 
  • Ultrasound: This test uses sound waves to see how blood moves through the blood vessels. Doppler ultrasound is a special type of ultrasound used to spot blocked or narrowed arteries.
  • Angiography
  • MRI or CT Scans: To look for blockages in the arteries. Before the images are taken, dye (contrast) is injected into a blood vessel. The dye helps the arteries show up more clearly on the test images.
Is Peripheral Arterial Disease dangerous?

Peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, is a wake-up call to more extensive problems such as heart disease.We often think of clogged artery disease, or arteriosclerosis, as something that only happens in the heart. Yet for some people, the leg pain caused by PAD acts as an “early warning” that someone is at high risk for a heart attack or a stroke. So that leg pain can save your life if you seek treatment for PAD.

What are lifestyle changes that can be done to improve symptoms of PAD?

Lifestyle changes can help improve symptoms, especially early in the course of peripheral artery disease. If you smoke, quitting is the single most important thing you can do to reduce the risk of complications. Walking or doing other exercise on a regular, scheduled basis (supervised exercise training) can improve symptoms dramatically. Prescribed medication for chronic conditions such as high cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure can help improve the symptoms signifcantly as well.