Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

Modern Heart and Vascular Institute

Rajiv Agarwal, MD

Cardiovascular Specialist & Board Certified Cardiologist located in Humble, TX, Katy, TX & Cleveland, TX

Peripheral arterial disease (or peripheral artery disease) is a prevalent circulatory issue affecting millions of Americans every year. Similar to coronary artery disease (CAD), which affects the heart itself, PAD occurs when narrowed or blocked arteries impede blood flow to limbs. This blood flow depletion can cause pain or discomfort and lead to further complications if it progresses. Below, learn about the symptoms, causes of and treatments for PAD. 

What Is Peripheral Arterial Disease?

Your arteries are essential blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to other parts of your body. Peripheral arterial disease develops when your arteries narrow due to a buildup of fat deposits or another cause (discussed below). As a result, the reduced blood flow causes pain or other symptoms as your limbs don’t get enough blood. PAD can affect any limb, but it most often impacts the legs.

Symptoms include cramping in the legs (claudication), numbness, weakness when walking or sores. As PAD progresses, it can signal or lead to further complications like critical limb ischemia or heart disease.

Differences Between PAD and PVD

There is sometimes confusion between peripheral arterial disease and peripheral vascular disease (PVD). These are related conditions, both of which narrow blood vessels and limit blood flow, but there are a few key differences. It’s crucial to distinguish PAD from PVD so you can get the most accurate and effective care.

Peripheral vascular disease is an umbrella term for conditions related to any blood vessels outside of your heart, including lymphatic vessels and veins. PVD encompasses a broad range of circulatory issues. PAD, on the other hand, is a specific form of PVD that only involves arteries. Unlike PVD, which can occur in the limbs, neck and face, PAD primarily impacts the legs. 

Causes of Peripheral Arterial Disease

Atherosclerosis is one of the main causes of peripheral arterial disease. With atherosclerosis, fat, cholesterol and other substances build up in your arteries. These deposits reduce the blood flow from your heart to your limbs, especially the legs. Other issues can also cause peripheral arterial disease, including arterial inflammation or limb injuries.

Several risk factors increase your chances of developing PAD with atherosclerosis, including:

  • Age — prevalence in both men and women increases with age
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Family history

Treating Peripheral Arterial Disease

Peripheral arterial disease is easily diagnosed with a non-invasive test that measures your blood pressure in different parts of your body. Once you have a diagnosis, your doctor or health care provider can help you determine the best treatment strategy to manage the symptoms and prevent disease progression. Common treatments include medications to lower the risk of complications, lifestyle changes such as increased exercise and a healthy diet and elimination of smoking. Surgery may be necessary to unblock certain arteries.

Peripheral Arterial Disease Prevention

With PAD, early detection is key. You can prevent or delay the development of PAD with regular exercise, healthy eating and proper management of diabetes or other risk factors. Caring for your heart and overall health will decrease your chances of developing peripheral arterial disease.

At Modern Heart and Vascular, we focus on prevention and early intervention for PAD and other cardiovascular conditions. Contact us today to request an appointment.

This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you need cardiovascular care, please call us at 832-644-8930.