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What Is Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)?

Peripheral artery disease (PAD), sometimes also called peripheral vascular disease (PVD), is a circulation disorder that slowly gets worse over time. Calcium and fat materials build up inside the artery walls, making your arteries narrow, blocked, or weak. This makes it harder for blood to flow through your arteries and deliver blood to your organs.

PAD may cause disease in any of the blood vessels outside of the heart (like arteries or veins).

Your blood vessels supply your brain, heart, and legs with oxygen-rich blood. If you have PAD, your organs may not get the blood they need to function normally. Most often, PAD will slow blood flow to your legs and feet.

This is why the disease is called peripheral artery disease. “Peripheral” means away from the center. Your legs and feet are located away from the center of your body.

Peripheral Artery Disease Symptoms

Not everyone with peripheral artery disease will have symptoms. Doctors estimate that only a little more than half of people with PAD will have any symptoms at all.

If you do have symptoms, they will probably be in your legs. You may have leg pain in your calves, thighs, or hips. You may have pain in one or both legs that starts and stops. Most people have pain that starts up when they walk or go upstairs but then goes away when they get off their legs and rest. Many people have cramps in their legs, but you may also have tightness or heaviness in your leg muscles.

Other symptoms may include the following:

  • Tingling, numbness, or weakness in your legs
  • Pain in your buttocks (butt) when walking
  • Sores on your legs or feet that don't heal
  • Pain in your toes or feet that aches or burns when you rest or go to bed at night
  • Hair loss on your legs
  • Change of color in one or both feet or legs (color changes in your legs may look pale, blue, dark red, or blue)
  • Impotence (when men can't get or hold an erection)

PAD Treatment: Balloon Angioplasty & Stenting

Some of the surgical procedures that may be suggested for patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD) include balloon angioplasty and stenting. Both procedures aim to open the blocked artery caused by PAD.

Vascular surgeon specialists with extensive, advanced training perform these procedures. Our specialists are supported by a team of imaging specialists and caregivers who work with patients to develop a customized plan of treatment.

What Is a Balloon Angioplasty?

A balloon angioplasty is a less invasive procedure doctors use to treat blood vessels in many areas of the body. During a balloon angioplasty, your doctor uses a catheter (a type of long, thin tube) to open up narrow arteries.

The tip of the catheter has a small balloon on it. Once the catheter is inside the blocked artery, doctors then inflate the balloon attached to the end of the catheter. The inflated balloon then flattens and presses the plaque inside your artery up against the side of your artery wall. This opens up your artery and allows blood to flow through it more easily.


How to Make an Appointment: What to Do If You Think You May Have PAD

If you think you may have PAD, the first thing you'll need to do is have a screening test called the Ankle Brachial Index.

How Is the Ankle Brachial Index Test Done?

The ankle brachial index (ABI) compares the blood pressure in your ankle to the blood pressure in your arm as a ratio. During an ABI test, your doctor will put one blood pressure cuff on your arm and another on your ankle. Your doctor will take your blood pressure in these two places.

If the blood pressure in your leg is lower than the blood pressure in your arm, you may have PAD. That's because PAD blocks the arteries in your leg, which causes lower blood pressure.

If the arteries in your legs are blocked, your ABI ratio will usually be below 0.9—in other words, at least ten percent below what is considered normal.

If the ABI in either of your legs is lower than 0.9, you may have PAD.

Make an appointment to be screened for PAD by calling 801-585-7676.

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