Peripheral Artery Disease And How To Treat It

With so many entertaining distractions on the internet nowadays, the sedentary lifestyle is more common than ever. When you’re out of shape, it’s sometimes hard to tell if little pains and kinks are the result of inactivity or a more severe health issue. However, it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your body and your health, so always consult a medical professional if you feel like something is off.

If you often experience pain or cramps in your limbs when you engage in physical activities, then you may be more than just out of shape. When the peripheral arteries in your body become narrowed or blocked, it could lead to a condition called peripheral artery disease (PAD). While this disease can affect your limbs, stomach, or head, it most often affects the arteries in your legs. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), peripheral artery disease is often undetected or mistaken for another illness, leaving some sufferers to go untreated. However, individuals with PAD possess a significantly greater risk for a heart attack or stroke, so it is important to educate yourself on this potentially debilitating disease and to learn how you can prevent it.


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Many people who have peripheral artery disease may not even realize it, as the symptoms can vary from severe to nonexistent. In some individuals, the symptoms are absent because the body grows new blood vessels around the blockages. For others, however, the symptoms can include, but are not limited to:

  • Claudication – pain in the hips, thighs, or calf muscles during walking or activities requiring physical exertion
  • Numbness or weakness in the legs
  • Sores on the toes, feet, or legs that do not heal
  • A change in color of the legs
  • Stunted hair growth on the legs and feet
  • A shiny quality to the skin on the legs
  • Weak or absent pulse in the legs or feet

In some cases, individuals may experience pain even when simply resting or lying down; the pain could be severe enough to disrupt fulfilling everyday activities or even sleep.



National Institutes of Health

According to the Mayo Clinic, peripheral artery disease is generally caused by atherosclerosis, during which fatty deposits (i.e., plaques) accumulate in the artery walls and restrict blood flow. On some occasions, PAD can be caused by blood vessel inflammation, injury, abnormal ligament or muscle formation, or exposure to radiation.

Risk Factors

Academy Foot & Ankle Specialists

In addition to the causes listed above, there are a number of risk factors that could increase your likelihood of developing peripheral artery disease. These risk factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity (i.e., having a body mass index over 30)
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Advanced age, especially after reaching age 50
  • Familial tendency of having peripheral artery disease, heart disease, or stroke


Foot Health Podiatry

There are several ways in which your doctor can test for peripheral artery disease. An ankle-brachial index (ABI) is one of the most common assessments used to diagnose the ailment. During this test, the blood pressure in your ankle is compared with the blood pressure in your arm.

There are also special ultrasound imaging devices and techniques that can detect the presence of the disease. The Doppler ultrasound, for example, helps your doctor to detect blocked or narrowed arteries in your blood vessels by gauging the blood flow.

Aadvanced Foot Care Associates

Another procedure involves the injection of a dye into your blood vessels. Your doctor can trace the flow of the dye in contrast to your blood via X-ray imaging, magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), or computerized tomography angiography (CTA).

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Even if you do not suspect that you have PAD, your doctor may detect warning signs or symptoms of the disease during a routine physical examination.

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Treatment and Prevention


The Mayo Clinic states that treatment of PAD encompasses two major objectives: to manage symptoms in order engage in physical activities again, and to keep the progression of atherosclerosis in check in order to minimize the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke.


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The good news is that there is a possibility that you can meet those objectives simply by making lifestyle changes. For starters, you should increase physical activity, incorporate a healthier diet, and quit smoking (if applicable). “If you smoke, quitting is the single most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of complications,” the Mayo Clinic emphasizes on their website.

In the cases where lifestyle changes are simply not sufficient, your doctor may prescribe medication to minimize pain and symptoms. Treatment could include cholesterol-lowering drugs or medication to control lower blood pressure, control blood sugar, or prevent blood clots.


In some instances, where patients are suffering from claudication, angioplasty or surgery may be necessary. Angioplasty involves the insertion of a catheter (i.e., a small, hollow tube) through a blood vessel that leads to the affected artery. A small balloon on the end of the catheter then inflates to open up the artery again and pushes the blockage against the artery wall, thus facilitating blood flow to that area. Medical professionals may also opt to perform bypass surgery or thrombolytic therapy, where a clot-dissolving drug is injected into the blocked artery.

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With a quick diagnosis and proper treatment, patients suffering from peripheral artery disease can continue to live a normal, healthy lifestyle. So, be sure to check with a medical professional if you suspect that you may have PAD.

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