Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition that leads to a decrease of blood flow to the arms and legs.
PAD is most often caused by a narrowing of blood vessels that supply blood to the arms and legs. The narrowing is usually caused by a buildup of plaque called atherosclerosis. The build up occurs over long periods of time and is increased with:
Other conditions that can slow blood flow include blood clots and inflammation of the blood vessels. Certain conditions like congenital heart disease can also decrease the amount of oxygen rich blood that reaches the arms and legs.
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PAD is more common in men and in people over 50 years of age. Other factors that increase your chance of developing PAD include:
Symptoms of PAD will depend on the area that is most affected. Common symptoms include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
During the exam, your doctor may do the following:
If the doctor suspects a change in blood flow, other tests may be done to confirm change or look for causes. Images of blood vessels can be done with:
Your heart activity may need to be tested. This can be done with an electrocardiogram (EKG).
Early treatment can slow or stop the disease. Treatment options include the following:
Certain lifestyle changes can improve the health of your heart and blood vessels. Steps that may help you slow or even reverse PAD include:
Medications that may help improve blood flow include:
Pain medication may also be needed to help manage discomfort.
If blood flow is very poor, a procedure may be needed to quickly increase blood flow. Options include:
Surgery may be needed to open arteries that are severely blocked. Options include:
A heart healthy lifestyle can decrease the risk of PAD. General steps include:
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Society for Vascular Surgery
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
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Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC Last Updated: 1/16/2018