Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

What is Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)?Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) Reno NV | Nevada Vein and Vascular

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) means the arteries in your legs are either narrowed or completely blocked. Having PAD makes it more likely that other arteries in your body are narrowed. Arteries that carry blood to the heart or brain can be affected, putting you at an increased risk for a heart attack or stroke.

You may already have tried lifestyle changes to help relieve your symptoms. now, your doctor is recommending a procedure to help improve blood flow. PAD can’t be cured but treatment can help to keep the disease from getting worse.

Who gets PAD?

Certain conditions and habits increase the chances of developing PAD. These are called risk factors. The most common risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease, such as coronary artery disease (CAD)
  • Being age 50 or older
  • High blood pressure and cholesterol

Peripheral Arterial Disease Symptoms

PAD can cause claudication. This is cramping or aching in your buttocks, thighs, or calves with exercise, such as walking. The pain goes away when you stop moving and returns when you move again. Climbing stairs or walking uphill may make it worse. As PAD gets worse, you may have pain more often.

PAD Treatment

PAD can sometimes be controlled with lifestyle changes alone. These changes include quitting smoking, exercising daily, and managing health problems such as diabetes. Medications may also help. Your doctor is likely to ask you to try these measures first. If they don’t lessen PAD symptoms, surgery or other procedures may help improve your quality of life.

How Blood Circulates

With each beat, your heart pumps oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. Arteries carry this blood to your organs and muscles. Veins then return oxygen-poor blood to the heart. If an artery is damaged, blood flow may be slowed down or blocked. This means your organs and muscles don’t get all the oxygen they need.

Blood leaves the heart through the aorta, the body’s main blood vessel. From there, it flows into large arteries in the abdomen and thighs. These branch into smaller vessels in the legs and feet.

An artery is a muscular tube. It has a smooth lining and flexible walls that allow blood to flow freely. Active muscles need increased blood flow and oxygen. Healthy arteries can meet this need.

When Blood Flow Changes

Arteries become stiffer and thicker with age. Artery linings can be damaged by smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, and other factors. This allows plaque (a buildup of fat and other materials) to form within the artery walls. The plaque narrows the space inside the artery and can limit blood flow.

Damaged Artery

PAD begins when the lining of an artery is damaged. Plaque then starts to form within the artery wall. At this stage, blood still flows normally, so you’re not likely to have symptoms.

Narrowed Artery

If plaque continues to build up, the space inside the artery narrows. The artery walls become less able to expand. The artery still provides enough blood and oxygen to your muscles during rest. But when you’re active, the increased demand for blood can’t be met. As a result, your leg may cramp or ache when you walk.

Blocked Artery

An artery can become blocked by plaque or a blood clot. This prevents oxygen from reaching muscle below the blockage. Then yo may feel pain when lying down. In time, the affected tissue can die. This can lead to the loss of a toe or a foot.

Tests to Measure Blood Flow

You may have tests that check the blood flow in your legs and feet. These tests are quick and painless.

  • Ankle- brachial index (ABI) compares blood pressure in your ankle with pressure in your arm.
  • Doppler ultrasound looks at the blood flowing through your arteries. It can show changes in blood flow due to artery narrowing or blockage.

Other tests can show the amount of narrowing or blockage in an artery and its location. Your doctor will use the results to recommend a plan for treatment.

Imaging Tests

Other tests can show the amount of narrowing or blockage in an artery and its location. Your doctor will use the results to recommend a plan for treatment.


In this test, x-rays help locate the narrowing or blockage in the artery. You are given medication to keep you comfortable and pain free. Then, a long, thin tube (catheter) is inserted into an artery, usually in your groin. It is carefully threaded to the affected artery. When the the catheter is in place, a contrast fluid is injected into the artery. This makes the blood flow show up clearly on x-rays. Several images (arteriograms) are taken. A procedure to treat the artery problem may be done right after arteriography. During your examination our team will discuss this with you in advance.

CT Arteriography & MR Arteriography

Other tests help detect a narrowing or blockage. Contract fluid allows the condition of the arteries to show more clearly. CT arteriography uses computer-generated x-rays to provide detailed images of arteries. MR arteriography uses a strong magnet and radio waves to produce images of blood flow in the arteries.

Risks & Complications of Arteriography

Although complications of arteriography are fairly rare, risks may include:

  • Bleeding, bruising, infection, or pain at the catheter site
  • An allergic reaction to the contract fluid
  • Blood clots
  • Artery damage
  • Kidney problems

Forming a Treatment Plan

PAD is often treated with lifestyle changes and medications. But they may not be enough to relieve your symptoms. For that reason, your doctor may be recommend a procedure to open the artery. Treatment may include:

  • Endovascular Procedures
  • Bypass Surgery

Endovascular Procedures

For a short narrowing or blockage, endovascular procedures may be used. These use a catheter to reach the affected part of your arteries. Catheters are usually inserted through small punctures. Endovascular procedures for PAD include angioplasty and stenting.

  • Angioplasty uses a tiny balloon to open blocked arteries.
  • Stenting is the insertion of a tiny wire mesh tube into an artery to hold it open.

Bypass Surgery

Bypass surgery may be the only option for longer or more severe narrowing or blockage. This treatment uses a bypass graft to reroute blood around an artery in the abdomen or leg. The damages section of artery is not removed during this procedure.

Schedule a Consultation

If you would like to learn more about Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD), call (775) 323-3000 to schedule a consultation at Nevada Vein and Vascular in Reno, NV.

For more information on our services, call our office to make an appointment.

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