Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a circulation disorder that tends to develop gradually. In PAD, your peripheral blood vessels narrow, reducing blood supply to your legs, ankles, and feet. Painful muscle cramps in the lower extremities when walking or exercising are the main symptom of PAD.
Cardiovascular physician Majed Chane, MD, and the team at CA Heart and Vein Specialists take great care in helping patients manage vascular conditions such as PAD. If you’re diagnosed with PAD, partnering with a cardiovascular physician is the best way to live well with PAD. Appropriate treatment can reduce your symptoms so you can lead an active lifestyle without pain.
PAD is progressive and tends to worsen with time. A cardiovascular physician can help slow the progression of PAD and monitor your condition to prevent complications. In this post, our experts provide more detail about PAD, including common causes and steps you can take to live well with vascular conditions.
Peripheral artery disease overview
Peripheral arteries are part of a network of veins and arteries that circulate blood to and from your legs and feet. While peripheral veins carry deoxygenated blood from your extremities back to your heart, the peripheral arteries carry oxygenated blood from your heart to your extremities.
In PAD, the peripheral arteries are narrow and stiff, instead of widened, relaxed, and flexible. This deprives the limbs of oxygenated blood. If you have PAD, you may experience:
- A heavy feeling in your legs
- Leg cramps
- Achy legs
- Sore calves
- Burning or discomfort in your feet
Symptoms most often occur with physical activity such as walking and tend to resolve within minutes with rest.
What causes peripheral artery disease?
A buildup of plaque on artery walls (atherosclerosis) is the most common cause of PAD. Fatty substances like cholesterol and triglycerides collect on artery walls and harden over time, reducing blood flow.
Major risk factors for atherosclerosis are:
- Poor diet
- High cholesterol
- Lack of exercise
- Excessive alcohol consumption
Genes also play a role in the development of atherosclerosis, but having a family history of atherosclerosis doesn’t mean you’re destined to develop it.
Complications of PAD
Reduced blood flow to the legs is associated with several potential complications. Poor blood flow can lead to slow wound healing. Leg ulcers may develop that take a long time to heal and may become infected. In severe cases, PAD can lead to amputation. People with PAD are also at a higher risk of stroke.
Your cardiovascular physician monitors the health of your legs and feet closely and acts quickly if ulcers or signs of infection develop.
Treatment for PAD
PAD treatment often begins with lifestyle changes. Of crucial importance is reducing your cholesterol if you have elevated levels. Quitting smoking if you smoke, getting regular exercise, and losing weight if you’re overweight are equally important.
Many people with PAD have other chronic conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Managing those conditions helps to slow the progression of PAD. Dr. Chane may prescribe medication to improve blood flow. Sometimes vascular surgery is necessary to bypass or open severely blocked blood vessels.
Help for PAD
With treatment, people with PAD lead healthy and active lives. The sooner you start taking proactive steps to manage your PAD, the better. The CA Heart and Vein Specialists team is here to help you every step of the way.
Reach out to our office in Huntington Beach, California, to schedule an appointment with Dr. Chane. New and existing patients can also submit appointment requests here on our website.