PAD is a chronic disease in which plaque builds up in the arteries of the legs. This buildup typically occurs gradually. If allowed to progress, blood flow in that artery can become limited or blocked all together. PAD is relatively common, affecting more than 10 million people in the U.S. It is more common in people who are 65 or older, but can occur at nearly any age. Smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, kidney failure, and obesity increase your risk for PAD.


Fatigue or cramping of your muscles (claudication) in the calf, thigh, hip, or buttock may signal you have PAD. Typically the discomfort is felt after walking a certain distance and goes away with rest.

  • If you have pain in your toes or feet while resting, you may have an advancing case of PAD.
  • An open wound or ulcer on your toes or feet, often at a pressure point on the foot, can signal a serious case of PAD. An ulcer can progress to gangrene. These symptoms require immediate medical attention.


  • An initial diagnostic test for PAD is the ankle brachial index (ABI). The test involves taking a blood pressure reading at the ankle and comparing it to that in the arm.
  • An ultrasound is often obtained to determine the location and severity of blockages.
  • A special CT scan to evaluate the arteries may be needed after you are seen by the vascular surgeon.

PAD is usually treated by aggressively managing the risk factors with lifestyle changes and medication. This includes quitting smoking, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, controlling diabetes, and losing weight. In addition, an exercise program, if followed faithfully, can significantly improve the symptoms of PAD in many cases. If PAD is causing serious symptoms, further treatments such as balloon angioplasty, stent placement, or surgical bypass can be very effective in improving the blood flow to the affected leg.

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