Understanding Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease or PAD is a condition characterized by a poor circulatory problem as a result of narrowed arteries that reduces the blood flow to the body’s extremities. Also known as peripheral vascular disease or PVD, this condition involves the obstruction of the large peripheral arteries that can be due to atherosclerosis.

 Causes of peripheral artery disease

The most common cause of peripheral artery disease is atherosclerosis which builds up fatty deposits called plaques in the arterial walls. Over time, the build up causes the arteries to narrow down and reduce the blood flow. In the case of PAD, atherosclerosis affects the arteries that supply the blood to the extremities. Other less common causes of PAD include arterial blood clots, injury to the limbs or infection.

Symptoms of peripheral artery disease

Although many people with peripheral artery disease do not show any symptoms, there are a number that may display the most common symptom associated with the disease- leg pain. The pain is usually felt by people while walking.

The leg pain usually leads to muscle pain and leg cramps that may disappear after giving the legs a few minutes of rest. The symptom can become so severe that it makes it more difficult for people to move around or perform other physical activities.

How peripheral artery disease is diagnosed?

Doctors may find the signs of PAD when a patient undergoes a physical exam. The sign can be weak or an absent pulse below a narrowed area of the peripheral artery.

Doctors may also provide an Ankle-brachial index on the patient, a test to compare the blood pressure in the ankle with the blood pressure in the arms. Other tests that a doctor may recommend to diagnose PAD are taking ultrasound scans, blood tests as well as angiography.

How to treat peripheral artery disease?

Treatment of peripheral artery disease involves treating the symptoms as well as trying to stop the progression of atherosclerosis that is the main cause of the said disease.

Doctors may use medications that lower cholesterol and blood pressure as well as blood sugar levels. Some lifestyle changes may also be included in the treatment in order to help stop the progression of atherosclerosis.

For conditions that cause the patient to experience regular debilitating pain in the limbs even with medication, angioplasty or possible surgery involving the affected peripheral arteries may be required.