Peripheral Artery Disease

Overview of Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease means that the blood flow to the lower body parts is interrupted. This mostly happens due to plaque buildup.

Peripheral Artery Disease (دائروی عروقی بیماری) is the blockage of blood vessels that supply blood from the heart to the legs. This disease is due to plaque buildup in the tiny blood vessels. PAD can happen in the blood vessels of the body but majorly it affects the blood vessels in the legs and arms.
PAD can give rise to several chronic conditions such as heart attack, stroke, and renal artery disease. On-time and effective treatment is highly required to avoid any major inconvenience.

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Signs and Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease

Sometimes people who are suffering from peripheral artery disease show no sign or mild symptoms. While some may have pain in their legs(claudication).
The symptoms of claudication are that the person feels pain when he or she is walking. But after some rest, the pain fades away.
The location of the blockage has a direct impact on the area that is in pain. Calf pain is one of the most common symptoms of Peripheral artery disease. Sometimes due to the severity of the blockage in the vessels, the person is unable to walk.

Other peripheral artery disease symptoms are as follows:

  • Cramps in the lower limbs such as thighs, hips, or calf muscles after walking.
  • Weakness in the lower body
  • Sores that refuse to heal on your lower leg or feet
  • Color change in one or both legs
  • The slow growth rate of toenails
  • Shiny skins on legs
  • Weak pulse in the lower body
  • Erectile dysfunction in men
  • Arms are in constant pain and distress

Causes of Peripheral Artery Disease

One of the most common causes of peripheral artery disease is the build-up of fat droplets in the tiny blood vessels. Arteriosclerosis is a condition in which plaque builds up in these peripheral arteries.

Fats are waxy substances. This build-up is not something that happens overnight. These droplets slowly gather together and over time cause the hardening of the blood vessels. 

This causes the blood to move in your vessels at a slower pace than regular. When the blood is not moving at its required pace then oxygen is not available for the cells to function. This leads to deprived functioning of the body.

Apart from arteriosclerosis, the less common reasons for peripheral artery disease are given below:

  • Inflammation in the blood vessels 
  • In case of injury in the lower body 
  • Radiation exposure

Risk Factors of Peripheral Artery Disease

In case a person is suffering from any cardiac issue then they are susceptible to the development of peripheral artery disease. Following are some of the most common risk factors of peripheral artery disease.

  • Age

Age is one of the major contributing factors to the development of peripheral artery disease. With age, the elasticity of the blood vessels is lost and the buildup of plaque is also highly possible.

  • Diabetes

The chances of the development of peripheral artery disease are higher in diabetic patients than in non-diabetic ones. This is due to the fact that in diabetes a person suffers from high levels of glucose in the blood. This glucose which has nowhere else to be starts to build up in the blood vessels.

  • High Cholesterol Level

Those who consume cholesterol-rich food on a daily basis are highly vulnerable to developing peripheral artery disease. The fats start to settle down in the blood vessels and cause hindrance in the normal blood flow.

  • High blood pressure

People who have high blood pressure have high chances of developing peripheral artery disease. High blood pressure affects the elasticity of arteries. Further stress causes them to harden and the blood flow is affected.

  • Obesity

When people are overweight they have high levels of body fat. These fats can find their way inside the arteries and can give rise to plaque buildup.

  • Physical Inactivity

Physical activity promotes stable health and ensures the proper functioning of the body.  Continuous sitting can make you lethargic and will put you at a greater risk of developing PAD. People who tend to rest a lot and refuse to move are at a greater risk of developing PAD.

  • Smoking

The nicotine and other cancerous substances that are present in cigarette smoke cause the blood vessels to constrict. This leads to peripheral artery blockage.

Peripheral Artery Disease Complications

If left untreated, peripheral artery disease can cause the following health complications:

  • Heart Attack

If the blood supply to the heart is interrupted for a long time. It can cause permanent and irreversible damage to the heart. This condition leads to a heart attack.

  • Stroke

Stroke is a condition that can be fatal depending upon the severity. A stroke mostly happens when the blood supply to the brain is affected.

  • Transient Ischemic Attack

A transient ischemic attack arises due to a temporary halt in the brain's blood supply.  It is mainly a mini-stroke that alerts the body that the blood supply to the brain or other body parts is interrupted.

  • Renal Artery Disease

PAD can cause another complication in which the blood supply to the kidneys is interrupted. This leads to poor functioning of the kidney.

  • Amputation

The permanent removal of arm, leg, hand, or foot. This is mainly in people that suffer from diabetes.



The preventive options for peripheral artery disease are as follows:

  • Exercise

Physical activity is the most effective method in the treatment of PAD. The doctor may recommend supervised exercises for their patients. Depending upon the severity of the peripheral artery disease the physical activities may vary. Some may start with simple tasks of walking. For some, the doctor may suggest a treadmill exercise program. Continued exercise can decrease the intensity of the disease in 4-8 weeks.

  • Diet Choices

PAD is a condition that is caused due to high levels of cholesterol in the blood. This is why patients that are suffering from PAD should eat a low-fat diet. Furthermore, the consumption of fruits can also help to lower the levels of cholesterol in the blood.

  • Quit Smoking

Smokers are four times more vulnerable to cardiac issues and strokes than non-smokers. That is why the person who is suffering from PAD should refrain from smoking.

  • Medications

High cholesterol levels are the leading cause of plaque build-up in the peripheral blood vessels. Doctors will recommend antihypertensive drugs and statins to control these high cholesterol levels.
Cilostazol and Pentoxifylline are some of the most prescribed medications.



When a patient is suspected of peripheral artery disease, the doctor starts the diagnosis by assessing the movement of the legs. Your doctor may recommend the following tests. 

  1. Ankle-Brachial Index

This is one of the most common tests for PAD. In this test, the blood pressure levels of the ankle are compared with the arm. 

  1. Ultrasound scan, Angiography

Ultrasound is often suggested by the doctor to assess the plaque buildup in the constricted blood vessels. This is also used to check cholesterol levels in the blood. 

  1. Doppler and Ultrasound Imaging

In this technique, with the help of sound waves, the artery is visualized. This helps to understand the blood flow. 

  1. Computed Tomographic Angiography 

Patients with pacemakers or stents undergo CT scans. This is a non-invasive method to check the blood flow in the peripheral arteries. 

  1. Magnetic Resonance Angiography 


There is no need for X-rays in MRA. The information in CT scans and MRA is similar to some extent. 

Treatment of Peripheral Artery Disease | When to Consult a Doctor

Based upon the severity of the disease given below are some treatment options for peripheral artery disease patients recommended by cardiologists:

  1. Angioplasty 

It is an invasive procedure. In this method, the catheter is inserted so that it can access the blocked artery. With the inflation of a tiny balloon, the clog is opened. A stent can also be used to hold the artery steady. In some cases, the above-mentioned procedure can use a medication or a special device to open the blocked artery.  

  1. Atherectomy 

Atherectomy is a process that involves minimum invasion. The catheter is inserted with the help of an incision. But in this process, the catheter also has a sharp blade that collects and removes the fat build-up. 

  1. Bypass Surgery 

This surgery mostly happens when a person is unable to move their entire leg. Any other vein from the body is used to replace the blocked vessel.