Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is disease of any blood vessel that is not part of the heart or brain. PAD is caused by deposits of fatty material in arteries of the legs. Since arteries carry oxygen-rich blood to the cells of the body, a reduction in blood flow can cause organ failure.
PAD is usually caused by a gradual buildup of plaque called atherosclerosis that happens within the arteries. Other causes include blood clots or embolisms, congenital heart disease, and inflammation of the blood vessels called vasculitis.
PAD can be hereditary. You also may get PAD if you are overweight or obese, or have hypertension, diabetes, or high cholesterol. Unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking, eating a high-fat diet, and not getting enough exercise lead to PAD.
PAD is more common in men and in people over 50 years of age. Other factors that increase your chance of developing PAD include:
Symptoms of PAD are related to the organ or part of the body deprived of blood. This includes:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
During the exam, your doctor may:
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
Images help evaluate blood vessels and surrounding structures. This can be done with:
Your heart activity may need to be tested. This can be done with an electrocardiogram (EKG).
Early treatment can slow or stop the disease. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
The following medications may be prescribed:
Procedures may include:
Surgery to open up narrowed arteries is performed in severe cases:
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Society for Vascular Surgery
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
About peripheral artery disease (PAD). American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/PeripheralArteryDisease/About-Peripheral-Artery-Disease-PAD_UCM_301301_Article.jsp. Updated September 15, 2014. Accessed March 2, 2016.
American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association 2005 Practice Guidelines for the management of patients with peripheral arterial disease. Circulation. 2006;113:e463-654.
Gey DC, Lesho EP, Manngold J. Management of Peripheral Arterial Disease. Am Fam Physician. 2004;69:525-532.
Lumsden AB, Rice TW. Medical management of peripheral arterial disease: a therapeutic algorithm. J Endovasc Ther. 2006;13(suppl 2)II19-29.
Mahmud E, Cavendish JJ, Salami A. Current treatment of peripheral arterial disease: role of percutaneous interventional therapies. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2007;50:473-490.
Peripheral arterial disease. Am Fam Physician. 2004 Feb 1;69(3):533. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2004/0201/p533.html. Accessed March 2, 2016.
Peripheral arterial disease and claudication. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/peripheral-arterial-disease-and-claudication.html. Updated April 2014. Accessed March 2, 2016.
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) of lower extremities. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114200/Peripheral-arterial-disease-PAD-of-lower-extremities. Updated August 11, 2016. Accessed September 23, 2016.
Regensteiner JG, Stewart KJ. Established and evolving medical therapies for claudication in patients with peripheral arterial disease. Nat Clin Pract Cardiovasc Med. 2006;3: 604-610.
11/18/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114200/Peripheral-arterial-disease-PAD-of-lower-extremities: Rooke TW, Hirsch AT, Misra S, et al. 2011 ACCF/AHA focused update of the guideline for the management of patients with peripheral artery disease (updating the 2005 guideline): a report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2011;124(18):2020-2045.
Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.