Peripheral Artery Disease

You may be at risk

Stay active, stay mobile and keep that blood flowing. We’ll help you find the right treatment plan for your PAD.

What is Peripheral Artery Disease?

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is generally associated with blocked arteries in the arms or legs. These blockages are the result of hard fatty buildup, or plaque, inside the artery walls. (This condition can also be known as atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.)

You may be at risk for PAD if you are overweight, inactive, smoke, have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a family history of atherosclerosis. PAD is closely linked to the same health issues that cause heart disease and stroke.

Risks of Peripheral Artery Disease

If enough fatty material builds up inside your arteries, it can slow or even block the flow of blood to your legs. People with PAD may experience pain in their legs, ulcers or wounds that do not heal. In extreme cases, PAD can lead to amputation.

PAD in your legs is a sign that you probably have fatty buildup in other arteries. People with PAD may have plaque in their heart and brain as well.

Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease

The most common symptom associated with PAD is pain when walking. Walking and other exercise requires increased oxygen for your leg muscles to work. When the arteries in your legs have narrowed, the flow of oxygen to your muscles is reduced. That lack of oxygen causes pain when you exercise.

In medical terms, this symptom is called intermittent claudication. If PAD is the cause of your leg pain, claudication symptoms will typically disappear when you are at rest.

Other PAD symptoms may include:

  • Cold feet
  • Leg pain when you are lying down but not when you sit up
  • Loss of hair on your feet
  • Loss of muscle
  • Shiny skin
  • Thickened toenails
  • Non-healing wounds

Treatment for Peripheral Artery Disease

People in the early stages of PAD can manage their disease with lifestyle changes such as exercising, eating a healthy diet and quitting smoking. Your doctor may also recommend medication to lower your cholesterol, lower your blood pressure or to reduce the risk of blood clots.

If your PAD is more advanced, lifestyle and medication may not be enough to control your disease. Your doctor may recommend endovascular or open surgical interventions to treat peripheral artery disease:

  • Endovascular Procedures: In an endovascular procedure, the surgeon inserts a catheter (small tube) into your blood vessels.  Angioplasty and stenting are two minimally invasive procedures that may be used to treat PAD.
  • Atherectomy: During an atherectomy, the surgeon uses a catheter with a scraping device on the end to remove plaque from inside an artery wall.
  • Bypass surgery: Bypass surgery creates a detour around a narrow or blocked section of your leg artery. Bypasses may be made from one of your own veins or from man-made material.
  • Endarterectomy: An endarterectomy is an open surgery in which your doctor makes an incision in your leg and removes the plaque inside a diseased artery.

The Aurora BayCare surgeons are experts in open surgery and endovascular treatments for PAD. Thanks to advances in minimally invasive surgery, most patients experience shorter hospital stays, decreased recovery time and fewer complications after PAD treatments.

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