Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease, or PAD, is a condition in which narrowed arteries constrict blood flow to the extremities (usually the legs). This results in pain when walking because there isn’t enough blood flow to keep up with the demand.


While some people with PAD are asymptomatic, those who do have symptoms of PAD may experience:

  • Painful leg cramps after exertion (walking, going up stairs, exercise)
  • Numb or weak legs
  • Foot that’s colder than rest of body
  • Sores on feet/legs that won’t heal
  • Slower growth of toenails
  • Hair loss on feet and legs
  • Shiny skin on legs/change in color of legs
  • Weak pulse in legs and feet


  • Physical exam: Your doctor will begin with a physical exam. Signs of PAD may be uncovered in many ways during the exam, whether it’s a wound that isn’t healing or the lack of a pulse in one of your legs.
  • Blood work: Tests may be given to measure cholesterol and triglyceride levels and for diabetes.
  • Ankle-brachial index: This test compares the blood pressure in your ankle with that in your arm.
  • Ultrasound and/or angiography: Used to identify blocked or narrowed arteries.


After diagnosis, there are different treatment options depending on the severity of the disease.

  • Lifestyle changes: In order to stop the progression of the disease and reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke, it is important to follow your doctor’s recommendations for diet and exercise changes, and if you smoke, quitting will have a positive effect on your health.
  • Medications: Your doctor may prescribe medications to reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke, as well as to manage the pain caused by PAD. Depending on the specifics of your disease, you may need to take medicine for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
  • Surgery: In some cases, your doctor may recommend angioplasty, bypass surgery or thrombolytic therapy.

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