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Peripheral artery disease (P.A.D.) is a disease in which plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to your legs and feet.

Plaque or atherosclerosis is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, fibrous tissue, and other substances in the blood. Atherosclerosis can also occur in the arteries of the brain, neck, heart, arms, and abdomen. Over time, plaque can harden and narrow the arteries. This limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the legs and feet.

Blocked blood flow to your legs can cause pain and numbness. It also can raise your risk of getting an infection in the affected limbs. Your body may have a hard time fighting the infection. If severe enough, blocked blood flow can cause gangrene (tissue death). In very serious cases, this can lead to leg amputation. If you have leg pain when you walk or climb stairs, talk with your vascular specialist at Heart and Vascular Care. Sometimes people think that leg pain is just a symptom of aging. However, the cause of the pain could be P.A.D.

Tobacco use is a major risk factor for P.A.D. If you smoke or have a history of smoking, your risk of P.A.D. increases up to four times. Other factors, such as age and having coronary artery disease, stroke, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and kidney disease also increase your risk of P.A.D. P.A.D. can be diagnosed using non-invasive ultrasound of the legs. Sometime taking pictures of the arteries of the legs using a CAT scan is necessary.

Previously the only treatment for P.A.D. was a major vascular operation. Now, the vascular specialists at the HVC Vascular Lab use the latest minimally invasive endovascular procedures such as angioplasty (inflating balloon to open blocked arteries), atherectomy (removing plaques from arteries), and stenting (metal tubes that keep arteries open) to improve blood flow in legs, improve patient quality of life, and prevent amputations.

The procedures are done using light or moderate sedation and the patient is able to go home the same date.

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