Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) occurs when plaque builds up and clogs the arteries and prevents the extremities, primarily the legs but sometimes the arms, from receiving enough blood flow to keep up with demand. The plaque deposits can cause the arteries to stiffen and become narrow or blocked which would then limit blood flow. Peripheral arterial disease is also likely to be a sign of a more widespread accumulation of fatty deposits in your arteries (atherosclerosis).
Peripheral artery disease can often be asymptomatic. However, when symptoms do appear, the most common is pain or cramping in the thighs or calves when walking.
Other symptoms include:
Leg fatigue or heaviness
Pain in the feet while at rest
Numbness or tingling in the legs or feet
Burning or tingling in the feet
Loss of hair on the feet or toes
Coldness in the lower legs or feet
Weak pulse in the legs or feet
Sores or ulcers on the legs or feet
Hardening of the arteries and plaque buildup is normal as you age. However, certain risk factors can lead to developing PAD sooner:
Age > 50
In order to diagnose PAD, certain tests or examinations may be conducted in order to measure blood flow through the arteries.
Ankle-brachial index (ABI)–compares blood pressure measured in the ankle to blood pressure measured in the arm
Exercise stress test–usually involves walking on a treadmill
Ultrasound–used to evaluate blood flow and narrowing or blockages in the blood vessels
Computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)–creates an image that shows blockages in the arteries
Angiography–can allow a doctor to see the exact location of a blockage with fluoroscopy and contrast dye
Treatment of PAD may involve medications or lifestyle modification, which can include smoking cessation, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, blood sugar control in diabetics, or supervised exercise programs. Severe cases may involve further treatment to restore blood flow to the legs and feet.
Endovascular repair–uses the insertion of a stent or balloon angioplasty to keep the artery open through a small puncture in the groin. It is minimally invasive requiring no incision.
Atherectomy–removes the plaque from within the artery using catheters
Open surgical bypass–allows a blood vessel made of the patient’s vein or a synthetic fabric, to allow blood flow around the blocked or narrowed artery.
Tenet Florida Physician Services (TFPS), a division of Tenet Healthcare Corporation, is a multi-specialty physician group that has provided care to the South Florida communities of West Palm Beach, Broward and Miami Dade counties since 2007. TFPS physicians, including primary care, specialists and sub specialists, have cared for over 263,000 patients across various medical and surgical specialties.