February 15, 2024

What is Peripheral Artery Disease?

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a common circulatory disorder that affects millions worldwide. It occurs when narrowed or blocked arteries restrict blood flow, particularly to the legs. PAD can have significant implications on health and quality of life, causing symptoms like leg pain, numbness, and even critical limb ischemia. 

Understanding its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options is crucial for early detection and effective management. In this article, we explore key aspects of PAD, its impact, available treatments, and prevention strategies.

Causes and Risk Factors

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) can be attributed to several causes and risk factors. The primary cause of PAD is atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by the buildup of fatty deposits (plaque) inside the arteries, leading to their narrowing and reduced blood flow. However, there are various factors that contribute to the development and progression of PAD.

One of the most significant risk factors for PAD is smoking. Tobacco use damages the blood vessels, accelerates the formation of plaque, and increases the risk of arterial blockage. People who smoke or have a history of smoking are at a significantly higher risk of developing PAD compared to non-smokers.

Individuals with diabetes also face an increased risk of PAD. High blood sugar levels in diabetes can damage the blood vessels and promote atherosclerosis, further narrowing the arteries. Additionally, diabetes can affect the nerves that regulate blood flow, leading to reduced sensation in the extremities, making it more challenging to detect PAD symptoms.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is another risk factor for PAD. Elevated blood pressure strains the arterial walls, making them more susceptible to damage and the development of atherosclerosis. When combined with other risk factors, such as smoking or diabetes, hypertension further heightens the risk of PAD.

Genetics and family history also play a role in PAD. Certain genetic factors can influence an individual's susceptibility to developing atherosclerosis and PAD. Additionally, if a close family member, such as a parent or sibling, has had PAD, the risk of developing the condition increases.

Other contributing risk factors include obesity, high cholesterol levels, a sedentary lifestyle, and a history of cardiovascular disease. These factors can further promote atherosclerosis and hinder proper blood flow, exacerbating the risk of PAD.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

If you suspect you may have Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), watch out for the following common symptoms:

  • Intermittent Claudication: Experience pain, cramping, or fatigue in the legs during physical activity that subsides with rest. This symptom is a hallmark of PAD.
  • Leg Pain: Feel dull or aching pain in the legs, calves, or thighs, particularly during exercise or walking. Resting usually provides relief.
  • Numbness or Weakness: Notice reduced sensation or weakness in the legs, possibly accompanied by a "pins and needles" sensation or difficulty moving the affected limb.
  • Coldness or Discoloration: Observe coldness or paleness in the affected leg compared to the other limb due to reduced blood flow. The skin may appear pale or have a bluish tint.
  • Slow Healing: Experience delayed wound healing, especially in the legs and feet, due to inadequate blood circulation.
  • Erectile Dysfunction: In men, PAD can contribute to erectile dysfunction, as impaired blood flow affects the ability to achieve and maintain an erection.

If you experience persistent symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention for a proper diagnosis. The diagnostic process for PAD typically includes:

  • Medical History Assessment: Your healthcare provider will discuss your symptoms, risk factors, and family history of cardiovascular disease to evaluate the likelihood of PAD.
  • Physical Examination: The provider will examine pulses in your legs, measure blood pressure in your arms and legs, and assess leg color, temperature, and sensation.
  • Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI): This non-invasive test compares the blood pressure in your ankle to that in your arm. A lower ratio suggests reduced blood flow to the legs, indicating PAD.
  • Ultrasound: This non-invasive imaging technique uses sound waves to evaluate blood flow in the arteries and identify any blockages or narrowing.
  • Angiography: In this invasive procedure, a contrast dye is injected into the arteries, and X-ray imaging is used to visualize any blockages or narrowing.
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA): This non-invasive imaging method uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed images of the blood vessels, providing information about the presence and location of arterial blockages.

Timely diagnosis of PAD is essential for appropriate management and to prevent potential complications associated with reduced blood flow to the limbs.

How to Treat Peripheral Artery Disease PAD

Treating Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) aims to relieve symptoms, improve blood flow, and reduce the risk of complications. The specific treatment plan may vary depending on the severity of the disease, individual health factors, and the presence of other underlying conditions. Here are some common treatment approaches:

Lifestyle Modifications

Making lifestyle changes is often the first line of treatment for PAD. These include:

  • Smoking Cessation: Quitting smoking is crucial to halt the progression of PAD and reduce the risk of complications.
  • Regular Exercise: Engaging in supervised exercise programs and incorporating regular physical activity can improve circulation, increase walking distance, and reduce symptoms.
  • Healthy Diet: Adopting a well-balanced diet low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium can help manage PAD and support overall cardiovascular health.
  • Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight reduces strain on the arteries and enhances blood flow.


Medications may be prescribed to manage symptoms, prevent blood clots, and improve overall cardiovascular health. These may include:

  • Antiplatelet Agents: Medications like aspirin or clopidogrel can help prevent blood clots from forming and reduce the risk of complications.
  • Cholesterol-lowering Drugs: Statins may be prescribed to lower cholesterol levels and slow down the progression of atherosclerosis.
  • Blood Pressure Medications: If you have high blood pressure, medications to control blood pressure levels may be prescribed.

Surgical Intervention

In cases where PAD severely affects blood flow in the legs, there are two main surgical interventions commonly used:

Angioplasty and Stenting

Angioplasty is a minimally invasive procedure performed to improve blood flow by widening the narrowed or blocked arteries. 

Bypass Surgery

Bypass surgery is considered when other treatment options, such as medication or angioplasty, are not feasible or effective. It involves creating a bypass or detour around the blocked or narrowed section of the artery. 

The choice between angioplasty and stenting versus bypass surgery depends on various factors, including the location and severity of the blockage, overall health, and individual circumstances. A healthcare professional, in consultation with a vascular surgeon, will determine the most suitable surgical intervention based on these factors.

If you suspect you may have PAD or require specialized care for your vascular health, we encourage you to reach out to BASS Vein Center. Our team of experienced vascular surgeons and healthcare professionals is dedicated to providing comprehensive evaluation, diagnosis, and state-of-the-art treatments for PAD and other vascular conditions. 

Don't delay in taking control of your vascular health. Contact BASS Vein Center to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards better vascular well-being.

Take the First Step to Ending Annoying Varicose Vein Discomfort.

More than 40 million people in the United States suffer from varicose veins, so you're not alone.
Boost Your Confidence
Perfect Legs
Eliminate the Pain
Healthy Veins