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Peripheral Artery Disease Specialist

Vein, Heart, and Vascular Institute

Cardiovascular Doctor & Interventional Cardiologist located in Tampa, Wesley Chapel, & Sun City, FL

Understanding Peripheral Arterial Disease: A Guide for Patients

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs. This condition can cause discomfort, mobility issues, and other health complications. Understanding PAD, its symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options is crucial for managing the disease effectively.


Peripheral Artery Disease Q & A

What is Peripheral Arterial Disease?

Peripheral Arterial Disease occurs when fatty deposits (plaques) build up in the walls of the arteries that carry blood to your limbs, usually your legs. This buildup, known as atherosclerosis, narrows the arteries and restricts blood flow. PAD is a form of atherosclerosis, and it can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems.

Symptoms of PAD

PAD often goes undiagnosed because many people do not experience symptoms until the condition is advanced. However, some common symptoms include:
  • Leg Pain While Walking (Claudication): You may feel muscle pain or cramping in your legs or arms triggered by activity, such as walking, but the pain disappears after a few minutes of rest.
  • Leg Numbness or Weakness: Reduced blood flow can cause a feeling of numbness or weakness in the legs.
  • Coldness in Lower Leg or Foot: A noticeable temperature difference between your legs or feet compared to the rest of your body.
  • Sores or Wounds That Won't Heal: Ulcers or wounds on your feet or legs that heal slowly or not at all.
  • Change in Leg Color: Your skin may become pale, bluish, or dark reddish in color.
  • Hair Loss or Slower Hair Growth on Feet and Legs: Reduced blood flow can affect hair growth.
  • Weak Pulse in Legs or Feet: A weak or absent pulse in the affected limbs.
  • Pelvic pain
  • Restless legs
  • Painful cramps in the hips, thighs, or calves
  • Shiny skin on the legs

Risk Factors for PAD

Several factors can increase your risk of developing PAD, including:
  • Smoking: Tobacco use is a significant risk factor for PAD.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes increases the risk of PAD due to the high blood sugar levels damaging blood vessels.
  • High Blood Pressure: Hypertension can damage your arteries over time.
  • High Cholesterol: High levels of cholesterol contribute to plaque buildup in arteries.
  • Obesity: Excess body weight can exacerbate other risk factors for PAD.
  • Age: The risk of PAD increases with age, particularly after 50.
  • Family History: A family history of cardiovascular disease can increase your risk.

Diagnosing PAD

If you have symptoms or risk factors for PAD, your doctor may perform several tests to diagnose the condition, including:

  • Physical Examination: Checking for weak pulses in the legs.
  • Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI): Comparing the blood pressure in your ankle with the blood pressure in your arm.
  • Ultrasound: Using sound waves to visualize blood flow and identify blockages.
  • Angiography: Injecting a contrast dye into your blood vessels and taking X-rays to view blood flow.

Treatment Options for PAD

Treatment for PAD focuses on relieving symptoms, improving quality of life, and preventing complications. Treatment options include:
  • Lifestyle Changes: Quitting smoking, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and managing conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.
  • Medications: Drugs to manage symptoms, prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and control diabetes.
  • Angioplasty and Stenting: A minimally invasive procedure to open blocked arteries and insert a stent to keep them open.
  • Bypass Surgery: Creating a graft bypass using a vessel from another part of your body to reroute blood around the blocked artery.

Managing PAD

Living with PAD requires ongoing management to prevent the progression of the disease and reduce the risk of complications. Regular follow-ups with your healthcare provider, adhering to prescribed treatments, and making healthy lifestyle choices are crucial steps in managing PAD effectively.


Peripheral Arterial Disease is a serious condition that can significantly impact your quality of life and overall health. Understanding the symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options empowers you to take proactive steps in managing the disease. If you suspect you have PAD or are at risk, consult your healthcare provider for a thorough evaluation and personalized treatment plan. By taking charge of your health, you can improve your well-being and reduce the risk of complications associated with PAD.