Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a narrowing of the peripheral arteries that reduces blood flow, most commonly in the arteries of the pelvis and legs.  PAD is usually caused by atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis occurs when cholesterol and fat build up, forming plaque inside the arteries, causing them to narrow and clog.1  If left untreated, PAD may lead to serious complications such an amputation of the toe, foot or leg. People with PAD have a two to six times greater chance of death from a heart attack or stoke.

PAD affects over 12 million people.2   Up to 50% of people with PAD may not have early symptoms of the disease but there are risk factors that can help with early detection. Understanding the risk factors and early diagnosis and treatment of PAD can help you and your doctor improve your prognosis and quality of life.

Potential Causes of Peripheral Artery Disease

The cause of PAD is unknown in many cases, but most people with PAD have one or more conditions or habits that raise their risk:  

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • History of heart of vascular disease

Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease

Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease include:

  • Leg pain at rest and/or leg pain when walking
  • Wounds on the foot or toes that will not heal
  • Gangrene
  • A noticeable decrease in temperature of your leg or foot

Peripheral Artery Disease Diagnosis

PAD may be diagnosed by performing the following:

  • A physical examination by your doctor
  • An Ankle Brachial Index (ABI) test.  This painless, non-invasive test compares the blood pressure readings in your ankles with the blood pressure readings in your arms. If necessary, further testing can be performed to identify which arteries are narrowed or blocked.
  • A Doppler Ultrasound test. This non-invasive test visualizes the artery with sound waves and measures the blood flow in an artery to indicate the presence of blockage.3

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  1., retrieved 11/13/11
  2. Wound Healing Perspectives, Volume 6 No. 2  2009
  3. American Heart Association.