Peripheral and Vascular Evaluations

Peripheral Artery Disease - legs

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition of the blood vessels that supply the legs and feet. It leads to narrowing and hardening of the arteries. This causes decreased blood flow, which can injure nerves and other tissues.<

Peripheral artery disease is caused by arteriosclerosis, or "hardening of the arteries." This problem occurs when fatty material (plaque) builds up on the walls of your arteries and makes them narrower. The walls of the arteries also become stiffer and cannot widen (dilate) to allow greater blood flow when needed.

Symptoms

The main symptoms of PAD are pain, achiness, fatigue, burning, or discomfort in the muscles of your feet, calves, or thighs. These symptoms usually appear during walking or exercise, and go away after several minutes of rest.

At first, these symptoms may appear only when you walk uphill, walk faster, or walk for longer distances.
Slowly, these symptoms occur more quickly and with less exercise.

Your legs or feet may feel numb when you are at rest. The legs also may feel cool to the touch, and the skin may look pale.

Exams and Tests

During an exam, the health care provider may find:

  • A whooshing sound when the stethoscope is held over the artery (arterial bruits)
  • Decreased blood pressure in the affected limb
  • Weak or absent pulses in the limb

Tests

  • Angiography of the arteries in the legs (arteriography)
  • Blood pressure measured in the arms and legs for comparison (ankle/brachial index, or ABI)
  • Doppler ultrasound exam of an extremity
  • Magnetic resonance angiography or CT angiography

Vascular Disease

The vascular system is the body's network of blood vessels. It includes the arteries, veins and capillaries that carry blood to and from the heart. Problems of the vascular system are common and can be serious. Arteries can become thick and stiff, a problem called atherosclerosis. Blood clots can clog vessels and block blood flow to the heart or brain. Weakened blood vessels can burst, causing bleeding inside the body.

You are more likely to have vascular disease as you get older. Other factors that make vascular disease more likely include:

  • Family history of vascular or heart diseases
  • Pregnancy
  • Illness or injury
  • Long periods of sitting or standing still
  • Any condition that affects the heart and blood vessels, such as diabetes or high cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Losing weight, eating healthy foods, being active and not smoking can help vascular disease. Other treatments include medicines and surgery.

Information provided by Medline Plus

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