- Heart Home
- Quality Answers
What is PAD?
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is the build-up of plaque within the artery wall. This leads to narrowing of the artery. It occurs in many places such as the carotid arteries in the neck, the aorta and renal arteries, and arteries of the arms and legs. PAD becomes more common with age.
Common Types of PAD
Abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs)
AAAs occur when the wall of the aorta, the main artery in the chest and abdomen, weakens over time. This causes the wall of the artery to enlarge or balloon. If undiagnosed, the aneurysm will continue to grow and eventually burst.
- Abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) have no signs or symptoms.
- Smokers and people with a family history of AAA are more at risk.
- AAAs can be identified with a quick and easy ultrasound test.
- When found early, AAAs may be treated successfully with minimally invasive procedures or surgery.
- About 15,000 Americans die each year from AAAs
Lower Extremity Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
Peripheral artery disease is the build-up of plaque in the arteries restricting blood flow in the legs, neck, kidneys and even intestines. When arteries in the legs are blocked, severe pain can result. In the most severe case, blockages can lead to kidney failure or amputation.
- Have you felt pain in your legs after a short walk from the car to the store? This is a signal of atherosclerosis, a condition in which fat or plaque has collected along artery walls.
- 10-15% of people over age 65 have been diagnosed with lower extremity PAD.
- Symptoms include leg fatigue, pain and heaviness during exercise or activity, especially in the muscles of the buttocks, hip, thigh and calves.
- Severe pain in the forefoot, especially while sleeping, or nonhealing foot wounds are often late signals of PAD (also called critical limb ischemia).
- A test that compares blood pressure in the ankles and arms (also called ankle brachial index), can find blockage in the arteries to the legs.
Carotid Artery Disease
Just like the arteries in your heart, the carotid arteries can narrow and develop a blockage known as atherosclerosis or plaque. Carotid artery disease can cause a decrease in blood flow to the brain, leading to a stroke. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and a leading cause of serious disability.
These factors may increase your chance of carotid artery disease and, as a result, stroke:
• High fat/high cholesterol diet
• High blood pressure (hypertension)
• Family history of stroke
- Some warning signs of stroke are blurred vision or temporary blindness, weakness or numbness in arms, leg or face on one side of the body; trouble swallowing; loss of coordination, dizziness or confusion, and headache.
- A blockage in the carotid artery can be found through an ultrasound of the neck.
Renal Artery Stenosis (RAS)
In RAS, arteries that bring blood to the kidneys may also become narrow or blocked. The blockage may be caused by atherosclerosis (plaque), fibromuscular dysplasia of the artery wall (a genetic disorder causing thickening of artery walls) or scar formation in the artery.
- Renal artery disease can cause high blood pressure as well as kidney problems. Often there is no pain or any other symptom.
- RAS is often found when your doctor is trying to find the cause of hypertension that is difficult to control or doesn't respond to drugs.
- Tests such as ultrasound, CT or MRI can measure blood flow through the renal arteries. If a blockage is shown, a renal arteriogram may also be used to find the blockage.
Risk Factors of PAD
- Tobacco Use
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol or high fat diet
- Family history of arterial disease
- Inactive lifestyle