What is peripheral artery disease vs. peripheral vascular disease?
Your body’s vascular system includes arteries and veins that carry blood throughout your brain, heart, legs and arms: Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from your heart to the rest of your body while veins bring the oxygen-poor blood back to your heart.
Peripheral artery disease happens when plaques of cholesterol, fat and other substances accumulate in the arteries. These peripheral arteries stiffen and narrow (a condition called atherosclerosis), reducing blood flow to your limbs.
Peripheral artery disease is a type of peripheral vascular disease that only affects the arteries and not the veins.
Signs of peripheral artery disease
Many people with PAD have no symptoms. However, signs may include:
- Leg pain, especially during exercise, walking or climbing stairs
- Cramping in the legs and buttocks
- Leg numbness
- Difficulty walking
- Slow-to-heal sores on the toes, feet or legs
Diagnosing peripheral artery disease
PAD increases your risk of heart attack, stroke and limb amputation. A correct diagnosis is key. Your doctor may order one of these diagnostic tests:
- Ankle-brachial index (ABI): This test checks blood flow to your limbs by comparing blood pressure readings in your ankles and arms.
- Arteriogram: Also called an angiogram, this test uses an injectable contrast dye and X-ray images to show the location and severity of blocked blood vessels.
- Doppler ultrasound: This handheld device uses sound waves to reveal blocked blood vessels.
- Magnetic resonance angiogram: Similar to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), this test uses magnetic and radio wave energy to take pictures of your blood vessels.
Treating peripheral artery disease
Lehigh Valley Institute for Surgical Excellence vascular specialists offer a complete range of vascular surgery options, including:
Endovascular procedures take place inside your arteries. Your doctor inserts a thin, hollow tube called a catheter through the femoral artery in your groin. We offer:
- Angioplasty and stenting: A balloon device inserted into the blocked artery inflates to compress the plaque, allowing blood to flow. A small wire mesh tube called a stent keeps the artery open.
- Drug-coated balloon angioplasty: We were the first in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey to offer Medtronic’s IN.PACT® Admiral® drug-coated balloon (DCB) after it received FDA approval. This balloon device delivers medication directly into the blocked artery. The medication prevents re-narrowing of the artery due to plaque buildup.
- Atherectomy: A small cutting device shaves off plaque deposits inside the blocked artery.
Doctors bypass, or go around, a blocked or narrowed artery using a graft. A graft can be made from synthetic material or a blood vessel taken from another part of your body.
Blood thinners, blood pressure medications and cholesterol-lowering drugs can lower stroke risk.
Lifestyle support services
PAD is a chronic, lifelong condition. You can use support services like rehabilitation to make healthy changes to protect your heart and limbs.