About Peripheral Arterial Disease

Peripheral arterial disease (also called peripheral artery disease) is a common, yet serious, disease. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) occurs when extra cholesterol and other fats circulating in the blood collect in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to your limbs. This buildup – called plaque – narrows your arteries, often reducing or blocking the flow of blood. PAD is most commonly seen in the legs, but also can be present in the arteries that carry blood from your heart to your head, arms, kidneys, and stomach. Nearly everyone who has PAD – even those who do not have leg symptoms – suffer from an inability to walk as fast or as far as they could before PAD. In all, PAD affects 8 to 12 million people in the United States, especially those over 50.

To learn more about peripheral artery disease, download our PAD Fact Sheet.

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Typical Symptoms of PAD

  • Leg pain, fatigue, heaviness, tiredness, cramping in the leg muscles, or pain in the buttocks, thigh, or calf that occurs when walking or climbing stairs and is relieved with rest
  • Pain in the legs at rest
  • Pain, sores, or wounds on toes, feet, or legs
  • Temperature lower in one leg than the other
  • Poor nail growth on toes and decreased hair growth on legs
  • A poorly healing wound on a lower extremity
  • Injury to a lower limb or foot involving blood vessels
  • Discoloration of the toes, feet, or legs (color changes in the skin including pallor or blue discoloration)


An arteriogram is an imaging test that uses x-rays and a contrast agent (sometimes referred to as “dye”) to see inside arteries. It can be used to view arteries in the heart, brain, kidney, and many other parts of the body.

ABI Test

An Ankle Branchial Index (ABI) test is done by measuring blood pressure at the ankle and in the arm while a person is at rest. Measurements are usually repeated at both sites after 5 minutes of walking on a treadmill. This can help determine the severity of PAD.

PVR Test

A Pulse Volume Recording (PVR) exam is a non-invasive test that is designed to measure the volume of arterial blood flow (circulation) in the legs or arms. It is similar to a blood pressure exam where cuffs are inflated twice to measure blood volume and blood pressure in an artery.

Duplex Ultrasound MRA or CTA

Your physician may also decide to perform a Doppler ultrasound test to determine if a specific artery is open or blocked. This test uses sound waves to measure the blood flow to the veins and arteries in the arms and legs.

Angioplasty and Stenting

Blocked or narrowed blood vessels can be a serious result of PAD. Our physician uses angioplasty to help open narrowed arteries. This technique uses a very small balloon attached to a thin catheter, which is inserted into a blood vessel through a small nick in the skin. The catheter is threaded under x-ray guidance to the site of the blockage, and the balloon is inflated to open the artery. Sometimes, a small metal scaffold, called a stent, is inserted to keep the blood vessel open.


Atherectomy is a minimally invasive method for removing atherosclerotic plaque from an artery. Unlike angioplasty and stents which push plaque into the vessel wall, atherectomy involves removing the plaque burden from the vessel. Some key differences between atherectomy and angioplasty and stenting are less vessel trauma, no foreign object (stent) left in the body, and all future treatment options are left open.

PAD Risk Factors

  • Over the age of 50
  • Age 50 or older with a history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or smoking
  • From a family with a history of vascular disease, heart attack, or stroke
  • Of African American or Hispanic descent
  • On dialysis
  • Obesity
  • Hypertension
  • Hyperlipidemias
  • Elevated C-reactive protein
If you have any of these risk factors, you may have Peripheral Arterial Disease. Take our PAD Risk Assessment to find out if you might have PAD. Available in English and Spanish.

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Learn More About PAD

Visit infoPAD.com