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Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease is a condition in which plaque builds up in the arteries which carry blood to the limbs, head, and organs. When plaque builds up in the arteries of the body, this is called atherosclerosis. Over time, the plaque build up limits the flow of oxygen rich blood to your organs and other parts of the body. Peripheral artey disease affects millions of people in the United States. The disease is more common in African Americans than in any other racial or ethnic group.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) usually affects the blood flow in the legs, but can affect other organs as well.

Blocked blood flow in the legs can cause pain and numbness. It can also raise the risk of developing infection in the affected limb. If severe enough, the blockage can cause gangrene(tissue death) and may lead to leg amputation.

PAD increases your risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Risk factors for PAD

  • Smoking is the main risk factor for peripheral artery disease. Your risk for PAD increases four times if you currently smoke or have a history of smoking.
  • Older age. One in every twenty Americans over the age of 60 has PAD.
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Metabolic syndrome
    Signs and symptoms of PAD

Many people with PAD have no signs of symptoms of the disease. Others may have many of the symptoms associated with PAD.

  • Intermittent claudication (pain, cramping or heaviness in the legs when walking which is relieved with rest)
  • Weak or absent pulses in the feet
  • Sores or wounds on the legs and feet which are slow to heal or will not heal
  • Decreased hair growth on the legs
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Pale or bluish tone of the skin on the legs

Diagnostic testing for PAD

The most common testing for presence of peripheral artery disease is the ankle-brachial index (ABI). The ABI compares blood pressure in the ankle to the blood pressure in the arm. This shows how well the blood is flowing in your limbs.

ABI can show whether PAC is affecting your limbs, but does not show which blood vessel is blocked or narrowed.

This test takes about 10 minutes to perform. If noted to be abnormal, further testing is indicated to determine which blood vessels are blocked and the severity of the disease.