Peripheral artery disease (also called peripheral arterial disease) is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs.
When you develop peripheral artery disease (PAD), your extremities — usually your legs — don't receive enough blood flow to keep up with demand. This causes symptoms, most notably leg pain when walking (claudication).
Peripheral artery disease is also likely to be a sign of a more widespread accumulation of fatty deposits in your arteries (atherosclerosis). This condition may be reducing blood flow to your heart and brain, as well as your legs.
You often can successfully treat peripheral artery disease by quitting tobacco, exercising and eating a healthy diet.
While many people with peripheral artery disease have mild or no symptoms, some people have leg pain when walking (claudication).
Claudication symptoms include muscle pain or cramping in your legs or arms that's triggered by activity, such as walking, but disappears after a few minutes of rest. The location of the pain depends on the location of the clogged or narrowed artery. Calf pain is the most common location.
The severity of claudication varies widely, from mild discomfort to debilitating pain. Severe claudication can make it hard for you to walk or do other types of physical activity.
Peripheral artery disease signs and symptoms include:
If peripheral artery disease progresses, pain may even occur when you're at rest or when you're lying down (ischemic rest pain). It may be intense enough to disrupt sleep. Hanging your legs over the edge of your bed or walking around your room may temporarily relieve the pain.
Some of the tests your doctor may rely on to diagnose peripheral artery disease are:
To get a blood pressure reading, your doctor uses a regular blood pressure cuff and a special ultrasound device to evaluate blood pressure and flow.
You may walk on a treadmill and have readings taken before and immediately after exercising to capture the severity of the narrowed arteries during walking.
Catheter angiography is a more invasive procedure that involves guiding a catheter through an artery in your groin to the affected area and injecting the dye that way. Although invasive, this type of angiography allows for simultaneous diagnosis and treatment. After finding the narrowed area of a blood vessel, your doctor can then widen it by inserting and expanding a tiny balloon or by administering medication that improves blood flow.
Treatment for peripheral artery disease has two major goals:
You may be able to accomplish these goals with lifestyle changes, especially early in the course of peripheral artery disease. If you smoke, quitting is the single most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of complications.
If you have signs or symptoms of peripheral artery disease, you likely will need additional medical treatment. Your doctor may prescribe medicine to prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and control pain and other symptoms.
In some cases, angioplasty or surgery may be necessary to treat peripheral artery disease that's causing claudication: