Peripheral artery disease (PAD) also called peripheral vascular disease is blockage or narrowing due to atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries of your legs or arms.
PAD Risk Factors
Our vascular doctors near you provide personalized treatments for these conditions, and more.
You are more likely to have peripheral arterial disease if you have:
High blood pressure
Family history of vascular or heart diseases
Learn more about common vascular problems.
An aneurysm is an abnormal dilatation, ballooning, or bulging of an artery. Aneurysms may affect arteries throughout the body. Aneurysms enlarge over time and the excess dilatation of the artery may cause rupture of the artery which can be life-threatening. Aneurysms are diagnosed and followed by ultrasound, CT angiography, MR angiography, or conventional angiography. Treatments may include minimally invasive endograft or stent-graft repair, coil embolization, or open surgical repair.
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The largest artery in the body is the aorta, which originates at your heart and travels all the way to the level of your “belly button” where it has an upside down “Y” branch to supply each leg. AAA is an expansion, or ballooning, of the portion of the aorta within your abdomen. The larger the aneurysm, the higher the risk it may rupture, leading to bleeding that could cause death.
In the United States, 200,000 cases of AAA are newly discovered each year. AAA is the 15th leading cause of death in the country (10th leading cause of death in men > age 55). Risk factors for developing AAA include increasing age, family history (as many as 1 in 4 people with a relative with AAA requiring repair will have an AAA), smoking, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and certain connective tissue disorders.
Symptoms in most cases of AAA are minimal or absent with gives the condition its nickname of the “silent-killer”. AAA many times are found when you are being evaluated for another medical condition. In a small percentage of patients, pain, skin discoloration, or ulcers on the feet and toes may be present. Severe abdominal or back pain, sweating, and rapid heart rate may signal life-threatening rupture.
The largest artery in the body is the aorta which originates at your heart and travels all the way to the level of your “belly button” where it has an upside down “Y” branch to supply each leg. TAA is an expansion, or ballooning, of the portion of the aorta within your chest. The larger the aneurysm, the higher the risk it may rupture, leading to damage of the aortic wall and bleeding that could cause death.
TAA are rare occurring in up to 1 person in every 10,000 people. A family history is present in 1 of 5 cases. Risk factors include increasing age, smoking, high blood pressure, and certain genetic syndromes.
Symptoms are most commonly minimal or absent. TAA develop and expand slowly over time. Most TAA are discovered when you are tested for other reasons. Chest or back pain may occur when a TAA grows quickly or ruptures.
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The upside down “Y” branch to supply each leg from the abdominal aorta are the right and left iliac arteries. IAA are an expansion, or ballooning, of the iliac arteries. Isolated IAA are relatively uncommon, occurring in only 0.03% of the population. In the presence of an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), IAA may be present in up to 40% of patients and often involve the right and left sides.
Symptoms in most cases of IAA are minimal or absent. Most IAA are found when you are being evaluated for another medical condition.
The major artery in the leg is called the popliteal artery as it travels behind the knee joint. PAA are an expansion, or ballooning, of the leg artery behind the knee joint. The larger the aneurysm, the higher the risk it may rupture, leading to bleeding or occlusion of the artery. PAA in 40-50% of cases are associated with abdominal aortic aneurysms. Half of all patients have involvement in both the right and left popliteal arteries.
Symptoms in most cases of PAA are minimal or absent. PAA many times are found when you are being evaluated for another medical condition. In some patients, pain in the muscles of the calf with walking, or skin discoloration or ulcers on the feet and toes may be present. Approximately 30% of untreated patients experience sudden blockage of the artery or worsening blood flow down the leg, resulting from dislodgment of tiny pieces of clot from the aneurysm with risk of limb loss.
A visceral artery aneurysm is associated with the arteries supplying the liver, spleen, kidneys, or intestines. VAA are rare. VAA are not treated until they reach a certain size or cause symptoms. The size threshold varies with gender and age, and few aneurysms under 2.0 cm are treated.
Symptoms are typically absent. We usually find this type of aneurysm when imaging tests are done for other reasons. Abdominal or back pain may occur if the VAA is growing and pressing against other structures, a clot has formed and is blocking blood flow, or if a tiny clot within the aneurysm travels to the organ the artery supplies and disturbs function.
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is sometimes called peripheral artery disease or peripheral vascular disease. PAD is blockages or narrow areas due to atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries of your legs or arms. It is important to know if you have PAD because if you have symptomatic PAD, your chance of dying in the next 5 years is greater than if you have breast cancer or prostate cancer.
Chronic Limb Ischemia or CLI is an advanced form of PAD which begins with open sores that don’t heal, an injury, or an infection of your legs or feet that progress to tissue death (gangrene) and may require amputation.
Carotid artery disease or carotid artery stenosis is caused by atherosclerotic/fatty plaques which narrow or obstruct the carotid arteries which are the primary blood supply to the brain and head. This blockage dramatically increases your risk of stroke, which is the leading cause of permanent disability in the United States.
Symptoms of carotid artery disease in the early stages are typically absent. As carotid artery disease progresses, symptoms of stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) may occur. These symptoms are often a sudden onset of numbness or weakness in the face or limbs, sudden trouble speaking or understanding, sudden trouble seeing, sudden dizziness or loss of balance, or sudden severe headache.
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Subclavian artery disease is a form of peripheral arterial disease (PAD). The subclavian arteries supply the blood to your arms and the back portion of the brain. Atherosclerotic plaque can cause blockage or narrowing of the subclavian artery.
Symptoms of subclavian artery disease or stenosis may include arm fatigue or pain, discoloration in the fingers, dizziness, fainting, difficulty walking, or visual changes.
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Renal artery disease or renal artery stenosis is a narrowing or blockage of one or more of the arteries which carry blood to your kidneys. Atherosclerotic plaque buildup or abnormal muscle growth usually causes renal artery stenosis in the wall of the renal artery called fibromuscular dysplasia.
Symptoms and signs of renal artery disease include high blood pressure which begins suddenly or worsens without explanation, increased protein levels in the urine, worsening kidney function, and difficult to treat heart failure.
Complications of renal artery stenosis include high blood pressure, kidney failure requiring dialysis, fluid retention in your legs, and sudden buildup of fluid in the lungs resulting in difficulty breathing.
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Mesenteric artery ischemia results from blockages or narrowings of the mesenteric arteries, which decrease blood flow to the small or large bowel. The blockages may occur suddenly (acute) or slowly over time (chronically).
Symptoms from acute mesenteric ischemia are sudden onset of abdominal pain leading to irreversible bowel damage, severe infection (sepsis), and death. Chronic mesenteric ischemia results in abdominal pain after eating, leading to fear of eating, and unintentional weight loss.
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Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is the condition of blood pooling in the veins of the legs due to failure of “one-way” valves in the veins. This prevents efficient blood return from the legs to the heart.
Symptoms and signs of chronic venous insufficiency include leg swelling, bulging or varicose veins, itching, skin darkening or staining in the lower legs, leg ulcers, leg heaviness, early leg fatigue, and skin infection or inflammation.
Vertebral compression fractures (VCFs) occur when the bony block or vertebral body in the spine collapses or fractures. This may lead to severe pain, deformity, and loss of height.
Vertebral compression fractures affect about 750,000 people each year. VCFs occur most commonly in people with weak or brittle bones from osteoporosis. In people with severe osteoporosis a VCF may happen from normal daily activities like sneezing forcefully, stepping out of the shower, or lifting a light object.
If you have had one VCF, you are at 5 times the risk of sustaining a second VCF.
Symptoms of vertebral compression fractures include a sudden onset of back pain, worsening of the pain with standing or walking, a decrease in pain while lying on your back, limited spinal mobility, height loss, and spinal deformity.
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