What is peripheral arterial disease (PAD)?
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is narrowing or blockage of arteries that causes poor blood flow to your arms and legs. PAD is most common in the legs.
The most common cause of PAD is the buildup of plaque on the inside of arteries. Over time, plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries, including those that supply blood to your legs. If you have PAD, you're likely to have plaque in other arteries in your body. This raises your risk of a heart attack and stroke. Medicines and lifestyle changes may lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. They may also help if you have symptoms. In some cases, surgery or other treatment is needed.
Peripheral arterial disease is also called peripheral vascular disease.
What causes peripheral arterial disease (PAD)?
The most common cause of PAD is the buildup of plaque inside of arteries, including the ones that supply blood to your legs. This buildup leads to poor blood flow. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking all contribute to plaque buildup.
What are the symptoms of peripheral arterial disease (PAD)?
Many people who have PAD don't have symptoms. If you have symptoms, they may include a tight, aching, or squeezing pain in your calf, thigh, or buttock. This pain is called intermittent claudication. It usually happens after you have walked a certain distance. The pain goes away if you stop walking. As PAD gets worse, you may have pain in your foot or toe when you aren't walking.
Other symptoms may include weak or tired legs. You might have trouble walking or balancing.
If PAD gets worse, you may have other symptoms caused by poor blood flow to your legs and feet. These symptoms aren't common. They may include cold or numb feet or toes, sores that are slow to heal, or leg or foot pain when you're at rest.
How is peripheral arterial disease (PAD) of the legs treated?
Treatment for PAD focuses on relieving symptoms and lowering your risk of heart attack and stroke. Making healthy lifestyle changes can help you lower this risk.
- If you smoke, quit. Quitting is the best thing you can do when you have PAD. Medicines and counseling can help you quit for good.
- Get regular exercise (if your doctor says it's safe).
- Eat heart-healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
- Stay at a healthy weight. Lose weight if you need to.
- Take good care of your feet and legs to prevent injuries and infections.
You may need medicines to help lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. You also may take a medicine that can help ease pain while you are walking.
People who have severe PAD may have bypass surgery or other procedures (such as angioplasty) to restore proper blood flow to the legs.