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Warning Signs and Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

Dec 28, 2020

Peripheral artery disease, or PAD, affects nearly 18 million Americans and goes undiagnosed in many more. A cardiovascular condition that affects blood flow to the extremities, PAD can be associated with coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke, and lead to limb amputation. Knowing the warning signs of PAD and seeking treatment early can drastically reduce your risk of developing an even more life-threatening condition.

Man holding his calf

What is Peripheral Artery Disease?

PAD—which is also commonly referred to as peripheral arterial disease or peripheral vascular disease—results from atherosclerosis, a process by which the arteries harden and narrow. During atherosclerosis, a sticky substance called plaque starts to accumulate inside the walls of the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the arms and legs. As more of this plaque builds up, it begins to impede blood flow through the arteries, dramatically reducing the amount of blood that reaches the legs, feet, heart, and brain and increasing the risk of a stroke or heart attack.

PAD refers specifically to the arteries that carry blood to the legs and feet. Inadequate blood supply can result in heavy, tired, or cramping legs; pale, blue, or discolored feet; and sores or wounds on the feet, legs, or toes that heal slowly or not at all.

The most commonly associated symptom of PAD is called intermittent claudication, or pain in the legs or hips during walking. For patients who suffer from claudication, pain, discomfort, or fatigue in the leg muscles worsens with walking but usually subsides at rest. Because it is generally exacerbated by activity and often treated by rest, claudication can sometimes lead to worse cardiovascular health, putting patients with PAD at even greater risk for complications.

PAD develops slowly and gradually over time. However, if left untreated, it can eventually lead to critical limb ischemia, a severe blockage of the arteries that results in pain in the limbs even without movement. Patients with critical limb ischemia face a 25% amputation rate, amounting to approximately 160,000 people each year.

Who is at risk for PAD?

PAD can affect anyone at any age, but there several factors that can increase your risk of developing it, including:

  • Age (adults 50 and older are at higher risk)
  • Current or former smoker
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Chronic kidney disease

The more risk factors you have and the more symptoms you experience, the greater the probability that you already have or will develop PAD. However, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk and prevent the disease from progressing.

Treatments for PAD

Although PAD is a chronic condition, it can be treated and managed for a better quality of life. The primary focus of PAD treatment is to manage the symptoms, reduce pain and discomfort, and slow or halt disease progression. Depending on your specific needs and the severity of your condition, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, medication, a medical procedure, or a combination of these options.

Lifestyle changes often include attempts to improve your weight and overall health, such as adopting a healthy diet and exercise regimen, quitting smoking, and managing current conditions like diabetes. You may be prescribed medications to improve blood flow, improve your mobility, decrease your pain when walking, and lower your cholesterol or blood pressure.

Sometimes a procedure is necessary to open a blocked artery. The most common types are:

  • Angioplasty. A minimally-invasive procedure during which a balloon is inserted into a blocked artery and inflated to help open the vein and restore blood flow.
  • Stent. A minimally-invasive procedure during which a tiny tube is inserted into the artery to keep it open.
  • Atherectomy. A minimally invasive procedure that uses special catheters to remove atherosclerosis from inside an artery.
  • Bypass surgery. A surgical procedure during which a blood vessel or synthetic tube is used to bypass blockages in an artery.

PAD Treatment at CardioVascular Health Clinic in Oklahoma

CardioVascular Health Clinic is dedicated to PAD treatments that emphasize limb salvage and amputation prevention. We lead the country in innovative new treatments for cardiovascular conditions and are Oklahoma's only endovascular specialist that routinely treats the small arteries below the knee and within the feet.

The physicians at CardioVascular Health Clinic pioneered the retrograde tibio-pedal, or retro-pedal, procedure, a revolutionary new outpatient alternative to amputation that rescues the affected limb and re-establishes blood flow. This minimally-invasive approach, which has a 96% success rate, reduces the risk of bleeding complications and improves patient recovery, requiring just two hours of post-surgical recovery time.

CardioVascular Health Clinic offers same-day procedures and cutting-edge care with lower associated costs than traditional hospitals. With eight state-of-the-art facilities, CardioVascular Health Clinic delivers personalized, quality care to patients all across Oklahoma and adjacent states. For more on PAD treatment, contact us today.

PAD is a serious condition, but it is preventable and manageable. Early identification of symptoms and warning signs can mean the difference between a treatable diagnosis and a possible amputation. Learn about your risk today for a healthier tomorrow.

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Professional staff working in a beautiful facility with great doctors who sincerely care about their patients. Without Dr. Schmidt's skill, I would have needed heart bypass surgery instead of a stent. Follow-up has been thorough. I can't recommend them highly enough.
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LeAnn Harner

Dr. Jim Melton and all the staff are fantastic. He is an excellent surgeon and his team is GREAT!!!! I just had surgery at the surgery center, I have only great things to say about my experience. Without him I really don't think I would be here to write this. If you’re looking for a good cardiovascular team, they are a 5 star for sure.

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Dr. Parsons and staff are amazing. He truly listened to me from the consult. Staff showed genuine care for my progress post procedure. I had my follow up appointment today so satisfied with results. Blake made me comfortable from the start. He is an activist for uterine fibroids treatment beyond the standard.

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Dr. John Schrader is the most personable doctor we know. He stays on top of my dads health care and is genuinely concerned about his health. We never leave his office with questions. He answers them all. Even questions we don’t think of. Always professional but never cold or bad bedside manner. In our opinion he is THE BEST around.
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Kathy J

I came to Dr. Warren by a self referral for mals when it took me 8yrs 50+ doctors and thousands of dollars spent on no answers. My first visit I was scared I was just going to be gaslighted just like the past however I was pleasantly shocked when Dr. Warren immediately believed me. She took the time to review many disk I had brought from past tests. She never once dismissed me and listened to ever word I had to say. She scheduled one last test to confirm the diagnosis then I was scheduled for surgery right away. Surgery was a success and I can’t thank her and her staff enough. Dr. Warren truly saved my life.

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Angie W

Dr. Garner literally saved my life 18 months ago and I've followed him to his new practice with Cardiovascular Health. He explains things so clearly, listens and is just a very nice person. His staff is great, too! I highly recommend!

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