Peripheral Artery Disease

Overview

What Are Your Peripheral Arteries?

Peripheral arteries are the group of arteries that carry blood from your heart to your head, organs and limbs.

What Is Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)?

Atherosclerosis, a buildup in your arteries of a sticky substance called plaque, causes peripheral artery disease (PAD). It’s also referred to as peripheral vascular disease, or PVD. This condition most often occurs in your legs.

When you develop PAD, it’s difficult for blood to travel to your body parts, particularly your legs. If your body parts don’t get enough blood, the tissue there can begin to die without proper care. This condition is called critical limb ischemia (CLI).

Who Is at Risk for Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)?

You’re more likely to develop PAD if you:

  • Smoke
  • Are 60 or older
  • Have health issues that affect your arteries, including:
    • High cholesterol
    • High blood pressure
    • Diabetes

World-Class Care

Aurora’s Specialized Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) Care

PAD can lead to dangerous conditions such as strokes and heart attacks, so our doctors are always ready to provide the care you need.

Your PAD diagnosis and treatment at Aurora will include:

  • Extensive experience: We treat more people with vascular conditions than any other health system in Wisconsin. We are experts at what we do – caring for all of your vascular needs, no matter how simple or complex.
  • Minimally invasive treatment approach: Surgery is one option for PAD, but we try to avoid such invasive approaches when we can. Whenever possible, we treat the condition with medication and outpatient procedures that avoid an operation.
  • Advanced equipment: We constantly update our vascular equipment to the most current versions available, including for our catheterization and surgical tools. You receive the best possible PAD treatment.

Symptoms

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) Symptoms

If you have PAD, the most common symptom you’ll notice is painful cramping in your calf, thigh or buttocks when you walk or move. The feeling usually goes away when you rest.

You might initially think this leg pain is just a normal part of aging. However, if you have signs of PAD, it’s important to see your doctor.

Other symptoms include:

  • One leg feels cooler in temperature than the other
  • Burning or aching pain in your feet and toes while resting or in bed
  • Erectile dysfunction, especially if you also have diabetes
  • Poor toenail growth
  • Redness or bluish color in your legs or feet
  • Toe and foot sores that don’t heal
  • Little or no pulse in your legs or feet (which your doctor will look for)

Diagnosis & Treatment

Thorough Evaluation & Treatment for Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

If you have PAD symptoms, your doctor will talk with you about how you’re feeling and do a physical exam.

Diagnostic Tests

If further tests are needed, your doctor may order one of the following:

  • Angiography: An X-ray test of your blood vessels or organs using a special camera and dye
  • Ankle-brachial index (ABI): A simple test that compares blood pressure in your ankle with blood pressure in your arm
  • Ultrasound: An imaging method that uses sound waves to create pictures of your body’s organs
  • Radiographic testing:
    • Computerized tomography (CT) scan
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Learn more about heart and vascular testing and diagnosis at Aurora.

Treatment Options

We work to relieve your symptoms and prevent your peripheral arteries from getting worse. We also want to help you avoid a heart attack or stroke. To accomplish those goals, we may need to reopen some narrow or blocked arteries.

Our most common PAD treatments include:

  • Medication: Certain prescriptions can help prevent and dissolve clots in your arteries.
  • Health and lifestyle education: We’ll teach you about the roles exercise and healthy eating play in controlling PAD. We may also give you information about wound care (people with PAD often develop recurring leg ulcers) and attending a medically supervised cardiac rehabilitation program that coaches you on exercise and diet.
  • Minimally invasive procedures: Non-surgical treatments include angioplasty and stenting to open blocked or narrowed arteries.
  • PAD Rehabilitation: With 12 locations across the system, we offer supervised exercise sessions and support and education for modifying risk factors.
  • Vascular surgery: This option is a more complex treatment choice for opening blocked arteries.

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