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About Peripheral Artery Disease

Atherosclerosis, an issue where plaque accumulates in the blood vessels and forms in the artery walls, is the most common cause of PAD. This results in the reduction of the flow of blood through the affected arteries. When atherosclerosis is the cause, it’s possible that the patient could experience stroke, heart attack, or critical limb ischemia.

Other possible causes of PAD that are less common include injury to the limbs, radiation exposure, blood vessel inflammation, and abnormal ligament or muscle anatomy.

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Risk Factors of PAD

There are risk factors that can make the chances of developing PAD higher. These include:

  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Being older than age 50
  • High homocysteine levels in the body
  • Family history of heart disease, PAD, or stroke


If left untreated, PAD puts people at risk for gangrene and the potential need for amputation. Those who suspect that they have this condition should not hesitate to make an appointment with their doctor. The diagnostic process is not extensive, and there are many viable treatments that can help people to live comfortably and reduce the risk of complications.

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Symptoms of PAD

For many, PAD does not cause any symptoms, especially in the early stages. When symptoms occur, claudication is possible. This issue is characterized by painful cramping in the thighs, lower legs, and hips when moving around. Other symptoms may include:

  • Leg weakness or numbness
  • Foot or lower leg is cold
  • Leg color changes
  • Toenails grow slowly
  • Sores that are not healing on the legs, toes, or feet
  • Slowed hair growth on the legs or feet, or hair loss
  • Leg skin has a shiny appearance
  • Feet or legs have a weakened or absent pulse
  • Men may experience erectile dysfunction

Peripheral Artery Disease Diagnosis

The doctor will usually start by doing an examination of the feet and legs to look for the visible symptoms of PAD.

During this examination, the doctor will evaluate and listen to the arteries and pulse points to determine if there are any “whooshing” sounds. This is done with a stethoscope.

Any leg or foot wounds can also be examined to determine if healing is too slow. Blood testing might also be done to look at blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

The doctor may perform an ankle-brachial index test, in which the patient’s blood pressure is checked using their arm and their ankle. The doctor will look to see the difference between both readings.

Doppler ultrasound can also be performed. This test will look at how blood is flowing through the blood vessels and can help the doctor to see any narrowing or blockages. Angiography involves injecting a dye into the blood vessels, which makes it easier for the doctor to examine blood flow. Once the dye is injected, imaging is performed.

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Non-Surgical Treatment Options

Treatment involves working to stop atherosclerosis progression and alleviate a patient’s symptoms so that they can be active. There are certain medications that can be prescribed for PAD, including:

  • Medications to reduce blood pressure for people who have hypertension
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs
  • Medications to reduce the risk of blood clots
  • Blood sugar control medications
  • Medication to increase how much blood flows to the extremities

Surgical Treatment Options 

If medications and conservative treatments are not effective, there are certain surgical procedures that might be considered. These may include:

Bypass Surgery

This procedure helps to bypass the flow of blood around an area in a vessel that is blocked or significantly narrowed.


This procedure can be done to help open up a vessel. A stent is often inserted after opening the vessel to help keep it open.

Thrombolytic Therapy

This involves injecting a drug that can dissolve blood clots into the artery to help break it up

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Prevention of Peripheral Artery Disease

There are ways to reduce the risk of developing peripheral artery disease. These methods are relatively easy and involve living a healthy lifestyle. Prevention methods include:

  • Not smoking
  • Staying at a healthy weight
  • Eating foods low in saturated fat
  • Exercising for 30-45 minutes at least three days per week
  • Controlling blood sugar (for patients with diabetes)
  • Achieving and maintaining healthy levels of blood pressure and cholesterol
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PAD Treatment at Foot & Ankle Specialty Group

We are a modern, family-friendly podiatry practice in the Rancho Santa Margarita and Newport Beach area. Founded in 2001 by Dr. Salma Aziz, D.P.M, M.S., we help families, individuals, and athletes and active people of all ages. Our practice is about getting people back to activity, and we offer both in-office treatments and surgical procedures to treat foot and ankle injuries and conditions of every kind. Dr. Aziz, Dr. Petrina Yokay, and Dr. Jessica Arneson are a professional and nurturing female surgeon group offering exceptional patient care and follow-up.

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