Peripheral Artery Disease

Treating Cardiovascular Diseases in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) occurs when plaque builds up inside the arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to your legs, arms, kidneys or stomach. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other materials found in the blood.

When plaque builds up in your arteries, it is known as atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

Most often PAD interferes with blood flow to the legs, causing symptoms of muscle cramping when walking or moving. This condition is known as claudication. If the condition becomes severe, it can lead to tissue damage or gangrene (tissue death). In some cases, it may even lead to leg amputation.

Peripheral Arterial Disease Symptoms 

Many people who have PAD experience no signs or symptoms at all. For others, the only sign is painful cramping in the calf, thigh or buttocks that occurs while walking or moving, but goes away with rest.

More advanced symptoms of pad peripheral arterial diseasemay include:

  • A lower temperature in one leg compared to the other
  • Burning or aching pain in the feet and toes while resting or when in bed at night
  • Erectile dysfunction, especially among men who have diabetes
  • Poor nail growth on the toes
  • Redness or bluish color to the legs or feet
  • Toe and foot sores that do not heal
  • Weak or absent pulses in the legs or feet

What Causes Peripheral Artery Disease?

The most common cause of peripheral arterial disease is atherosclerosis. The following factors are thought to contribute to this condition:

  • High amounts of certain fats and cholesterol in the blood
  • High amounts of sugar in the blood due to insulin resistance or diabetes 
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking

Risks for Peripheral Artery Disease

The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop PAD. Common risks include:

  • African American heritage
  • Age 60 or older
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol or a high-fat diet
  • Hypertension(link) (high blood pressure)
  • Personal or family history of blood vessel disease
  • Smoking

Peripheral Artery Disease Screening

If you think you have PAD, talk to your doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the condition from getting worse or causing related conditions, such as heart attack or stroke.

If your doctor recommends peripheral artery disease screening, you can expect a physical exam, questions about your medical history and existing risk factors. Your doctor is also likely to recommend any of the following tests to help diagnose PAD and determine its severity:

  • Angiography 
  • Ankle-brachial index (ABI) 
  • Arteriography
  • CT scan
  • Doppler ultrasound
  • MRI

Treating Peripheral Artery Disease

It is important to remember that prevention(link) is the best medicine.

If you have peripheral artery disease, your doctor will personalize your treatment to meet your specific needs. To prevent the condition from progressing, treatment often includes the following lifestyle changes:

  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Exercise
  • Manage high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol
  • Practice good foot and skin care
  • Quit smoking

Medications may also be prescribed to manage diabetes and lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

In more severe cases, treatments and procedures may be necessary. These include:

  • Angioplasty
  • Atherectomy
  • Peripheral artery bypass surgery
  • Stenting

Leading Midwest Vascular Program

Aurora is known for having one of the best vascular programs in the United States. Aurora St. Luke’s Vascular Center provides a multidisciplinary approach to diagnosing and treating all types of vascular disorders. Our multidiscliplinary approach to care includes access to outstanding doctors and services for preventing, diagnosing and treating peripheral artery disease as well as aortic disease and carotid artery disease. We also offer a full-service rehab program to ensure your optimal recovery.

Our doctors are conveniently located throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. To find a doctor or vascular specialist near you, we invite you to use our online directory. For assistance or to get a second opinion, please call 888-649-6892.