Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) occurs when the blood vessels (arteries) that supply blood to the legs, belly, pelvis, arms, or neck get too narrow. This reduces blood flow to that area. The legs are affected most often. Fatty buildup (plaque) in the arteries usually is the cause of PAD. This buildup is also called "hardening" of the arteries. Your risk of PAD increases if you smoke or have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, or a family history of PAD.
Many people do not have symptoms. If you do have symptoms, your may have weak or tired legs, difficulty walking or balancing, or pain. If you have pain, you might feel a tight, aching, or squeezing pain in the calf, foot, thigh, or buttock that occurs during exercise. The pain usually gets worse during exercise and goes away when you rest. If PAD gets worse, you may have symptoms of poor blood flow such as leg pain when you rest.
Medicines and lifestyle changes may help your symptoms and lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. In some cases surgery or other treatment is needed. It is important that you follow up with your doctor.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.
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Current as of: September 21, 2016
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & A. Evan Eyler, MD, MPH - Family Medicine, Psychiatry
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