Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is estimated to aﬀect over 202 million people worldwide.1
The disease itself forms via atherosclerosis, a condition defined by a build-up of plaque (or fatty deposits) within the arteries. This plaque build-up causes the arteries supplying the limbs (known as the peripheral arteries) to narrow and harden, thereby restricting blood flow to the limbs.2,3
PAD is sometimes used interchangeably with PVD, or peripheral vascular disease, however PAD refers more specifically to the presence of plaque build-up in the arteries, whereas PVD may affect any blood vessel outside of the heart, including the arteries veins or lymphatic vessels.4,5
Many people with PAD do not experience any symptoms, however those that do may have symptoms including:3
– Leg pain or cramping (the most common symptom)
– Leg weakness and/or numbness
– Sores on feet and/or legs that will not heal
– Changing skin colour
– Shiny, bald skin on legs
Acute limb ischaemia
Acute decrease in blood ﬂow to the limb due to plaque in the peripheral arteries breaking oﬀ or causing a blockage.11
If blood ﬂow to the limbs is heavily restricted, this can result in tissue death or amputation.3,12
There are a variety of ways in which PAD can be diagnosed. Your doctor will usually collect information about your medical history, do a physical examination and conduct a blood test. They may also carry out one of the following tests:13
a non-invasive exam that compares blood pressure in the ankle and the arm. This is done using a blood pressure cuﬀ and an ultrasound to examine both blood ﬂow and pressure.
an imaging technique that can help your doctor evaluate blood ﬂow through your blood vessels and identify narrowed arteries.
a special dye is injected into your blood vessels, which allows the doctor to view blood flow through the arteries as it happens, using imaging techniques such as x-ray.
The current standard of treatment includes lifestyle changes, prescription medication and sometimes surgery.
For cholesterol control
For high blood pressure
For diabetes control
Insulin/ antiglycaemic drugs
For blood clot prevention
If experiencing acute limb ischaemia or critical limb ischaemia, when in the chronic (longer term) and not acute stage.15
PAD patients are at higher risk of also having coronary artery disease and other vascular diseases. They are therefore at risk of associated complications such as heart attack and stroke, should plaque build-up block blood flow to the heart and/or brain.16
It is important to understand that your risk of further complications may still remain even after preventative treatment as plaque build-up can still occur. This is why it is necessary to monitor your vascular health and take necessary steps to control plaque build-up and keep your quality of life as good as it can be.
Scientists are also undertaking research in an area called vascular protection, to explore how risks for further complications can be lowered.
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