Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is disease of any blood vessel that is not part of the heart or brain. PAD is caused by deposits of fatty material in arteries of the legs. Since arteries carry oxygen-rich blood to the cells of the body, a reduction in blood flow can cause organ failure.
PAD is usually caused by a gradual buildup of plaque called atherosclerosis that happens within the arteries. Other causes include blood clots or embolisms, congenital heart disease, and inflammation of the blood vessels called vasculitis.
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PAD can be hereditary. You also may get PAD if you are overweight or obese, or have hypertension, diabetes, or high cholesterol. Unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking, eating a high-fat diet, and not getting enough exercise lead to PAD.
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 are related to the organ or part of the body deprived of blood. This includes:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
During the exam, your doctor may:
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
Images help evaluate blood vessels and surrounding structures. This 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. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
The following medications may be prescribed:
Procedures may include:
Surgery to open up narrowed arteries is performed in severe cases:
General guidelines to prevent PAD include lifestyle changes, smoking cessation, and adhering to any treatment plans for other health conditions.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Society for Vascular Surgery
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
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11/18/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114200/Peripheral-arterial-disease-PAD-of-lower-extremities: Rooke TW, Hirsch AT, Misra S, et al. 2011 ACCF/AHA focused update of the guideline for the management of patients with peripheral artery disease (updating the 2005 guideline): a report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2011;124(18):2020-2045.
Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC Last Updated: 5/2/2014