What is peripheral artery disease (PAD)?

Peripheral arterial disease is a condition that affects your circulation due to narrowing of your arteries, which carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. This condition usually affects your legs, causing pain when walking, known as claudication.

If you have peripheral arterial disease, you’re likely to have atherosclerosis as well. Atherosclerosis is the buildup of fatty deposits, or plaque, in your arteries that affects blood flow to your brain and heart, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

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Commonly asked questions about peripheral arterial disease:

What are the symptoms of peripheral arterial disease?

You could have peripheral arterial disease without realizing it. The condition often doesn’t cause symptoms, or the symptoms you do have are so mild you don’t think anything of them.

When peripheral arterial disease causes symptoms, the main one is claudication, meaning you experience pain or cramps in your leg muscles when walking that typically go away when you rest.

Advanced peripheral arterial disease may cause pain at rest, making it difficult to sleep or cause problems with wounds and healing.

You could experience this pain in any part of your leg, depending on where the arterial blockage is, but most often it affects the calf. Pain can be mild or become so severe it affects your ability to walk.

Other symptoms of peripheral arterial disease that affect your legs and feet include:

  • Numbness or weakness
  • Coldness in the lower leg
  • Sores that won’t heal
  • Change in skin color
  • Hair loss or slow hair growth
  • Slow-growing toenails
  • Shiny skin
  • Weak pulse in your legs
  • Erectile dysfunction

The team at Tinsley Surgical can screen you for peripheral arterial disease. Screening is recommended if you’re over 65, over 50 and have diabetes or smoke, or are under 50 but have several risk factors for peripheral arterial disease.

How is peripheral arterial disease diagnosed?

The team at Tinsley Surgical first carries out a thorough physical exam to check for signs of peripheral arterial disease.

Part of your exam is a test called the ankle-brachial index (ABI), which compares the blood pressure in your ankle to a reading from your arm. In a healthy person, the two readings should be the same. If you have peripheral arterial disease, the ankle reading is much lower.

Other tests include Doppler ultrasound, which assesses your blood flow and identifies any narrowed or blocked arteries, and angiography, which uses a dye to make the veins show up on diagnostic imaging devices.

Catheter angiography involves using a slim tube called a catheter to introduce the dye through an artery in your groin. It’s more invasive, but it enables the team at Tinsley Surgical to treat the affected arteries at the same time as diagnosing the problem.

How is peripheral arterial disease treated?

There are several ways to treat peripheral arterial disease. Making lifestyle changes is essential and may be the only treatment you need if your peripheral arterial disease isn’t too advanced. Other treatment options include:

  • Cholesterol-lowering medications
  • High blood pressure medications
  • Blood-thinning medications
  • Balloon angioplasty, with or without stent, atherectomy
  • Bypass surgery
  • Thrombolytic therapy

If you’d like to arrange a screening test for peripheral arterial disease or think you’re experiencing symptoms schedule an appointment today..