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Peripheral Artery Disease: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Similar to coronary artery disease, peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a common circulatory problem involving reduced blood flow to the limbs. Peripheral artery disease occurs in the arteries that carry blood to the arms and legs.

Because the rate of PAD advances at different rates, the heart and vascular specialists at SSM Health work closely with you to determine where in the body the plaque has formed, providing you with an accurate picture of your overall health.

PAD is often caused by atherosclerosis, a condition where plaque (or fatty deposits) builds up in the artery walls, reducing blood flow. In rare cases, PAD can be caused by:

  • Blood vessel inflammation
  • Injury to the limbs
  • Unusual anatomy of the ligaments or muscles
  • Radiation exposure

When meeting with your doctor it’s important to discuss any and all outside circumstances that may play a role in your condition. This provides us with a full, clear picture allowing us to provide you with expert care and treatment.

Signs & Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease

Signs and symptoms of peripheral artery disease can be mild to nonexistent. Leg pain while walking is the most common symptom. Additional PAD symptoms can include:

  • Painful cramping in the hip, thigh or calf muscles after certain physical activities, such as walking or climbing stairs
  • Leg numbness or weakness
  • Burning or aching pain in the feet and toes while resting, especially at night while lying flat
  • Cool skin on the feet
  • Increased occurrence of infection
  • Toe and foot sores that do not heal
  • Absent or weak pulse in the legs or feet

It’s important to not dismiss these symptoms as a part of the aging process. Schedule an appointment with your primary care provider for a screening. They’ll provide you with a full workup and refer you to an SSM Health heart and vascular specialist if needed.

Treating Peripheral Artery Disease

Our vascular surgeons utilize minimally invasive and open surgical techniques for PAD. These procedures have shown great success in treating patients with critical limb ischemia (restriction of blood supply) and claudication (cramping pain in the leg).

Exercise Program for PAD

Research has shown that exercise can be highly effective in increasing leg circulation and reducing the pain caused by PAD. Great results have been achieved in structured exercise program based on gradually increasing periods of supervised treadmill walking. Depending on your situation, your SSM Health physician may recommend a cardiac exercise program in one of our cardiac rehabilitation centers. There, our dedicated trainers and therapists can tailor an exercise program to meet your specific needs.

Additional lifestyle changes, medications and interventional procedures are also viable treatment options for peripheral artery disease. If you suspect or are currently suffering from PAD, find an SSM Health heart and vascular specialist close to you. We’re here to help you find relief and start living your healthiest life.

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