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Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) Overview

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) Overview

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a circulatory disorder where narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs. When the arms and legs don’t receive enough blood, they may not function properly. PAD is a serious condition that often goes undiagnosed until symptoms present themselves.

Causes of Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease is caused by fatty deposits that build up on artery walls, reducing blood flow. When this process – known as atherosclerosis – occurs in the arteries that supply blood to the limbs, it causes PAD. Risk factors for atherosclerosis include smoking, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and a family history of heart disease. 

Risk Factors & Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease

Recognizing the signs and symptoms for Peripheral Arterial Disease is essential for early diagnosis, the creation of a medical regiment treatment plan, and early intervention if symptoms are severe. Many patients present with painful walking as their primary symptom. However, 40% of patients diagnosed with PAD have an asymptomatic presentation or blame their leg issues on something other than PAD. If you are experiencing painful muscle cramping in the legs when you are walking, which stops with rest and resumes with walking, be evaluated. An early diagnosis and an active treatment plan can achieve a successful outcome for patients with Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD).

Common Signs and Symptoms for Peripheral Artery Disease include:

  • Leg muscle tiredness, heaviness, or cramping
  • Toes or feet that look pale, discolored, or blue
  • Leg or foot pain that disturbs sleep
  • Sores or wounds on toes, feet or legs that heal slowly or not at all
  • One leg or foot that feels colder than the other
  • Thick or yellow toenails that aren’t growing

Do you have risk factors for Peripheral Artery Disease?

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Advanced Age

If you or a loved one are at risk for blood FLOW problems – Feeling of pain in the legs, Loss of sensation in the legs or feet, Open sores that won’t heal, or Weakness with walking, be evaluated by your doctor.

man with peripheral artery disease holding his leg in pain
In patients with severe disease, the lack of sufficient blood flow can cause tissue damage to occur, leading to open sores that do not heal and/or gangrene. Advanced stages of PAD result in Critical Limb Ischemia.  This condition increases a patient’s chance for limb loss/amputation and can lead to death from heart attack or stroke. At the Vascular Institute of Chattanooga, the 60-day limb salvage rate is 97.4% with an overall 5-year limb salvage rate of 93%.  This success is achieved with a comprehensive team-based approach from primary care, podiatry, and area wound centers.

You Have a Choice When It Comes to Vascular Care.
Get an Appointment at VIC In 3 to 5 Days – Without a Referral!

You Have a Choice When It Comes to Vascular Care.
Get an Appointment at VIC In 3 to 5 Days – Without a Referral!

Peripheral Artery Disease Diagnosis

The diagnosis for PAD starts out with a medical history and physical exam. Your medical provider will conduct a test called an ankle-brachial index (ABI). This simple test compares the blood pressure in your lower legs to the blood pressure in your arms. If the blood pressure in the legs is significantly reduced, then PAD is diagnosed.

Other Tests to Diagnose Peripheral Artery Disease

What to Do If You Have Been Diagnosed With Peripheral Artery Disease

Lifestyle changes and medications are the first step following diagnosis with PAD; if these modifications do not change the patient prognosis, then endovascular or surgical intervention may be the next step. If you think you have PAD, coming in early for a diagnosis and an active treatment plan can prevent late-term complications and achieve a successful outcome – victory over amputation. Schedule your consultation at VIC today!

Peripheral Artery Disease Treatment

Treatment options for peripheral artery disease include lifestyle changes, medication, and endovascular or surgical intervention.

Prevention of Peripheral Artery Disease

Preventative measures include regular exercise, eating foods low in saturated fat, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and keeping blood sugar under control if you have diabetes. These lifestyle changes can also help treat PAD once it has already developed. Additionally, procedures like angioplasty, stent placements, and atherectomies can help with prognosis. 
woman exercising by doing yoga to prevent Peripheral artery disease

Peripheral Artery Disease Progression

When PAD is undiagnosed and left untreated, significant injury to the vascular system can occur and lead to late-term complications like critical limb ischemia – at risk for amputation.


Yes, there is not a time limit. PAD can be managed and maintained with lifestyle changes, medication, and surgical intervention, but without any treatment, your life longevity decreases.

Pain and numbness in the toes occur due to the lack of blood flow. Skin and nails may become rough and dry; other effects might include the presence of wounds that do not heal, as well as death of skin and gangrene.

Pain, numbness in the toes occurs due to the lack of blood flow.  Skin and nails may become rough and dry, also the presence of wounds that do not heal, or death of skin & gangrene.

PAD reduces the oxygen reaching the skin.  This can lead to rupture of small blood vessels and developing scar tissue giving the skin a darker and rougher appearance.
Some patients have success with control of the disease by making lifestyle changes and reducing the risk factors of PAD such as stopping smoking, managing diabetes and kidney disease, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, and exercising daily.

The accumulation of the fatty cells in the vessel walls causes inflammation and scarring. Calcium will often deposit inside the plaques, causing “hardening of the arteries.”


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