Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease is a general term for damage, defects or blockage in the peripheral arteries that carry blood and supply oxygen to the hands and feet.

Peripheral artery disease of the legs is the most common type of the condition, which also affects other parts of the body. For example:

  • Carotid artery disease occurs in the arteries of the neck.
  • In renal artery disease, the arteries leading to the kidneys are blocked.
  • Mesenteric artery disease is a narrowing or blockage of one of the arteries supplying the large and small intestines.
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm involves an abnormal widening of the aorta, the main blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries that results from a buildup of fat and cholesterol, is one of the main causes of peripheral artery disease. The buildup—known as plaque—clogs arteries. Peripheral artery disease can also develop from clots that form in the veins when the walls become weak and blood flow slows.

The most common symptom of peripheral artery disease is leg pain, particularly when walking or exercising. Other symptoms include numbness and tingling in the lower legs and feet, coldness in the lower legs and feet, and leg sores that do not heal.

Your doctor will examine your blood pressure and heart in an effort to diagnose peripheral artery disease. You may also have to undergo additional tests such as:

In some cases, lifestyle changes—such as quitting smoking, exercising and controlling weight—can keep peripheral artery disease under control. 

Procedures that do not require surgery include:

In severe cases, you may have to undergo surgery. A number of proven surgical procedures have been developed to treat peripheral artery disease. They include carotid endarterectomy, femoropopliteal bypass, tibioperoneal bypass, mesenteric bypass, and abdominal aortic bypass. Your doctor will recommend the best treatment for your particular condition.

If you are over 50 and are experiencing certain symptoms, Oregon Heart & Vascular Institute offers regular screenings.

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