Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
In peripheral artery disease (PAD), blood flow in the leg is affected by narrowing of one or more arteries in the leg.
PAD is associated with cramps in the calf, thigh, or buttocks that occur with physical activity and are relieved by rest.
In addition to cramps, PAD can cause cold and often pale extremities, which are sensitive to pain. Other signs of peripheral artery disease include non-healing wounds, toenail changes, shiny skin, and hair loss around the affected area of the leg.
Narrowing of an artery occurs as a result of a build-up of fatty deposits (called atherosclerosis ) on the artery walls.
Factors that increase the chance of developing PAD include:
If your healthcare provider suspects PAD, they will first do a physical exam, during which they will examine your legs and take your pulse. To confirm the diagnosis of PAD, your doctor will perform a test called the ankle-brachial index (ABI), which measures the blood pressure in your ankle.
Imaging tests, such as ultrasound, can also be used to take a closer look at the blood vessels in the legs.
Treatment is multifactorial and includes lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, starting a daily walking program, and taking blood thinners. such as aspirin or Plavix (clopidogrel) . This also includes managing underlying medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol with medications.
In more severe cases, angioplasty (when a blockage in an artery is opened with an inflated balloon) followed by stent placement (when a tube is placed in the artery to keep it open). Bypass surgery (when a graft is used to redirect blood flow from a blocked artery) may also be considered.