Peripheral Artery Disease

As you get older, aches and pains are normal. But if you are experiencing pain or cramps in your legs and arms, particularly after walking or doing mild activity, you may have peripheral artery disease or PAD.

PAD is the narrowing or blockage of arteries, most commonly in the legs. It is usually caused by the buildup of plaque on the inside of your arteries. The buildup restricts the blood flow to your arms and legs. When you walk or exercise, your leg muscles don't get enough blood, and you can get painful cramps.

The pain usually happens after you have walked a certain distance. In early stages of PAD, the pain typically goes away after you stop walking. As PAD gets worse, the pain may linger after you stop the activity.

In addition to pain, PAD increases your risk of a heart attack or stroke. So it is important to talk your Mercy doctor if you are experiencing symptoms. Your doctor has access to the best technology and facilities to diagnose and treat your symptoms.  

How is PAD Diagnosed?

During an exam, your doctor will check the strength of blood flow at your groin, behind your knee, on the inner ankle and on the top of your foot. Your doctor may also order tests, including:

  • Ankle-brachial index: compares the blood pressure in your legs with the blood pressure in your arms
  • Doppler ultrasound: a tool that uses sound waves to check the blood flow in your arteries

How is PAD Treated?

Treatment for PAD focuses on relieving symptoms and lowering your risk of further complications. This may include:

  • Medicines: to help relieve symptoms and lower this risk of a heart attack on stroke
  • Angioplasty: to expand a narrowing artery
  • Surgery: to open narrowed arteries or to reroute blood flow around them
  • Cardiac rehabilitation (rehab): treatment, education and support to help you to manage symptoms and make healthy choices

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