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Home > Conditions > Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

A circulatory disease that puts the heart, brain, and limbs at risk.



PAD is a chronic disease in which plaque builds up in the arteries to the legs. This buildup typically occurs gradually. If allowed to progress, blood flow in that artery can become limited or blocked all together.

PAD is relatively common, affecting more than 10 million people in the U.S. It is more common in people who are 65 or older, but can occur at nearly any age. Smoking; high blood pressure; high cholesterol or triglycerides; diabetes; kidney failure; and obesity increase your risk for PAD.


Many patients experience no symptoms.

Fatigue or Cramping of Muscles While Walking

Fatigue or cramping of your muscles (claudication) in the calf, thigh, hip, or buttock may signal you have PADS. Typically the discomfort is felt after walking a certain distance and goes away with rest. 

Pain in Toes or Feet While Resting

If you have pain in your toes or feet while resting, you may have an advancing case of PAD. 

Open Wound on Toes or Feet

An open wound or ulcer on your toes or feet, often at a pressure point on the foot, can signal a serious case of PAD. An ulcer can progress to gangrene. These symptoms require immediate medical attention.


The causes of PAD include smoking, high cholesterol or high triglycerides, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney failure, and obesity. Genetic factors also play a role, but are not well understood.



See a Vascular Surgeon

You will be asked questions about symptoms and medical history, including questions about family members. The vascular surgeon will also perform a physical exam. 

Tests May Be Recommended

  • An initial diagnostic test for PAD is the ankle brachial index (ABI). The test involves taking a blood pressure reading at the ankle and comparing it to that in the arm. 

  • Typically an angiogram is done to determine where the in the arteries plaque has built up to assess treatment options. This can be done using a CT or MRI, or possibly by doing a catheter-directed angiogram, which involves placing a thin tube into the artery and injecting dye into the arteries to see where the blockages are located.


PAD is usually treated by aggressively managing the risk factors with lifestyle changes and medication. This includes quitting smoking, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, controlling diabetes, and losing weight. In addition, an exercise program, if followed faithfully, can significantly improve the symptoms of PAD in many cases.

If PAD is causing serious symptoms, further treatments such as balloon angioplasty, stent placement, or surgical bypass can be very effective in improving the blood flow to the affected leg.




You are at risk of PAD if any of the following apply to you:

  • You are age 50 or older

  • You are male, because men are more prone to PAD than women

  • You have high blood pressure or a family history of high blood pressure

  • You have diabetes

  • You smoke or used to smoke

  • You have high cholesterol

  • You are obese

  • You are sedentary and get very little exercise

  • You have a family history of vascular problems


  • Avoid tobacco use. If you smoke, ask your vascular surgeon to help you find a smoking cessation program that will work for you.

  • Exercise regularly.

  • Take prescribed medications as recommended to control high blood pressure, high cholesterol or triglycerides, diabetes, and kidney failure.

  • Lose weight to decrease the amount of work your muscles need to do when you walk.

  • Eat a balanced, low-sodium, low-fat diet.


Our goal is to improve the quality of your life and give you the best outcome possible. If you have leg pain, leg cramps, or other PAD symptoms, or if someone in your family seems to have these symptoms, please seek help as soon as possible.

With care from a vascular specialist or surgeon, you can limit further damage and support body-wide health. Please contact us to discuss treatment options and schedule a consultation with Omni Vascular today.





For Comprehensive Person-Centered


Visit Society of Vascular Surgery for more information.





For Comprehensive Person-Centered


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