Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is the most common form of vascular disease affecting the arteries by comparison to peripheral vascular disease which can affect both arteries and veins. Arteries are responsible for bringing oxygenated blood flow from the heart and lungs to the arms, legs and rest of the body, while veins are responsible for bringing deoxygenated blood flow back to the heart and lungs.
PAD is most common in the pelvis and legs and can have a significant effect on the ability of the body to heal wounds and ulcers, particularly in the feet and toes. PAD is the result of atherosclerosis in which plaque forms on the wall of arteries. The arteries may become so blocked or narrowed and hardened that blood flow may not get to the very ends of the toes and feet.
When the blood vessels are markedly narrow, one may feel rest pain or claudication pain in the legs. Rest pain is pain in the legs that often occurs at night and may awaken someone from sleep. Claudication pain on the other hand is pain that occurs in the calves, legs or buttocks and limits the individual’s ability to walk a block or two and may require resting to relieve the pain.
Both rest pain and claudication pain occur when the body is not receiving enough oxygen, a process known as ischemia. Should oxygen delivery to the body’s tissue be even more deprived, the patient may experience gangrene, when parts of the feet or toes turn black and ashen in appearance. Anyone experiencing rest pain, claudication pain, ischemia or gangrene should notify their physician immediately at first signs to avoid amputation.
Surgical treatment is determined by a special consultant known as a vascular surgeon who may utilize a variety of tools to restore blood flow with stents, balloons or bypass grafts. In some cases a person may not be a candidate for bypass surgery.
PAD affects 12-20% of Americans age 60 and older. Risk factors for PAD include tobacco usage, Diabetes, Hypertension, elevated cholesterol and increased age