Peripheral Artery Disease

Basic Facts

Peripheral artery disease (or "PAD") is a common circulation problem in which arteries in the pelvis and legs become narrowed. This reduces blood flow to the muscles in the legs and causes pain with walking. As many as one in five people over the age of 65 have peripheral artery disease. The strongest risk factors for peripheral artery disease are smoking and diabetes.

In addition to pain and difficulty walking, peripheral artery disease can cause sores or ulcers on the legs and feet. If not treated, the loss of blood flow associated with peripheral artery disease can cause the underlying tissue to die, a condition called gangrene. In serious cases, amputation may be required.

Peripheral artery disease is also a risk factor for coronary artery disease (the medical term for damage or disease in the heart's major blood vessels), and these conditions often occur together. In fact, most deaths in people with peripheral artery disease are from complications of coronary artery disease, such as heart attacks, heart failure, or arrhythmias.

Lifestyle changes (such as diet and exercise) and medications can help to reduce symptoms and prevent complications from peripheral artery disease. In some patients, surgery can help to restore blood flow by opening or bypassing the blocked artery.

Last Updated August 2020