Peripheral artery disease is a narrowing of the vessels that supply the limbs, head and stomach with blood.
What causes peripheral artery disease?
Peripheral artery disease is caused by atherosclerosis – a buildup of plaque on the inner walls of the arteries. Plaque narrows or blocks the arteries that feed the arms or legs, preventing them from receiving enough blood to function correctly.
If peripheral artery disease is severe enough, it can lead to tissue death in a foot or leg. It also increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.
What are the symptoms of peripheral artery disease?
The primary symptom of peripheral artery disease is leg pain, cramping or tiredness when walking. The pain usually goes away when you stop walking, and comes back when you start walking again.
Other symptoms include:
- Weak or absent pulse in the feet or legs
- Sores on the toes, feet or legs
- A lower temperature in one leg than the other
- A change in the color of your legs (pale or bluish)
- Poor nail growth on the toes
- Decreased hair growth on the legs
How is peripheral artery disease diagnosed?
To diagnose peripheral artery disease, your doctor will conduct a physical exam and run some tests, including:
- Ankle-brachial index (ABI)
- Blood tests
- Catheter angiography
- Computed tomography (CT) angiography
- Magnetic Resonance Angiogram (MRA)
How is peripheral artery disease treated?
Your doctor will recommend lifestyle changes and medication to treat your peripheral artery disease. In more severe causes, a medical procedure or surgery may be needed to restore proper blood flow.
Lifestyle changes include:
- Quitting smoking
- Eating a heart-healthy diet
- Lowering high blood pressure and high cholesterol
- Getting more physical activity
If these changes aren’t enough to reduce blockages, you may need a medical procedure or surgery, including:
- Bypass grafting surgery
- Catheter-directed thrombolysis