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Peripheral Artery Disease

What is Peripheral Arterial Disease?

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) occurs when the arteries in your legs become blocked. A fatty substance called plaque grows inside the walls of the arteries that carry blood from your heart to your legs and feet. When this happens, your legs do not get enough blood and oxygen. This can cause pain, infection and wounds in your legs and feet.

You are more likely to get PAD if you have diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or if you smoke or are overweight. You are also more likely to get it as you get older or if your family members have it. If you have blocked arteries in other parts of your body, such as your heart or brain, you are also more likely to get PAD.

Sometimes people with PAD have no symptoms. If your blockage is severe, you may have some or all of these symptoms:

  • Intermittent claudication (IC). IC is discomfort or pain in your legs that happens when you walk and goes away when you rest. Or you may have pain all the time that gets worse with walking or exercise.
  • Darkening or discoloration of the skin in the legs and feet
  • Hair loss on the legs
  • Wounds that do not heal or heal slowly, wound infection or Gangrene (death of a body part-usually a toe or foot)

You are less likely to get PAD if you control your diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, lose weight and stop smoking. Your overall health will also get better. Plaque build-up can be stopped or undone, and medicines or surgery may improve blood flow.

Your Solution Options:

  • Stop smoking: Smokers tend to get PAD about 10 years earlier than non-smokers.
  • Start exercising: Exercise can help lessen pain that you feel when walking. Make sure to discuss any exercise program with your doctor before you start.
  • Eat healthy: You can lower your cholesterol by eating healthy, but you may also need medications to lower your cholesterol to a good level.
  • Take your medicines: If your doctor has prescribed medication for you, it is important that you take it. Medicine can help to keep your cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes under control, improve the blood flow in your blood vessels, and/or keep your blood from clotting.
  • Endovascular Surgery, Open Surgery, or Bypass