Understanding Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease is a circulatory disorder that affects the arms and legs and can make walking difficult.

Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries and prevents blood from flowing normally. Insufficient blood flow to the arms and legs can affect their function and cause discomfort.

Advanced age is a risk factor for developing PAD, along with high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Recognizing its signs and consulting with your medical provider can lead to an early diagnosis and treatment
plan and keep the condition from advancing.

Critical Limb Ischemia

If left untreated, PAD can result in critical limb ischemia (CLI), where necessary blood flow to tissues in the extremities is limited or blocked. Critically low circulation levels can lead to severe pain and gangrene and put the individual at high risk of limb loss. CLI requires immediate attention from a vascular surgeon to restore circulation and prevent limb loss.


Common signs of PAD include unexplained leg muscle pain that eases with rest, sores that are slow to heal, discoloration on the toes or feet, and weakness while walking.

Many patients later diagnosed with PAD assume that their leg issues have other causes, which delays treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of PAD, prioritize your health and schedule a doctor’s appointment.

Treatment and Outlook

PAD can be successfully managed with lifestyle changes, medication, and, if necessary, surgical intervention. Preventative measures to reduce plaque buildup include regular exercise, avoiding saturated fats, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy blood sugar level.

An Expert Weighs In

“PAD/CLI is prevalent in our region, often misdiagnosed, has undertreated risk factors, and can progress rapidly leading to gangrene and limb loss. Over 40% of the amputations in the United States occur in the Southern states. Advances in technology have allowed vascular surgeons many options for saving limbs. Endovascular surgery is the process of operating inside the arteries, removing plaques, ballooning, and stenting arteries open. If you have a FLOW problem in your legs: feeling of pain in the legs, loss of sensation in the feet or toes, open sores or wounds that don’t heal, or weakness with walking, then get evaluated by your primary care. Vascular Institute of Chattanooga is the region’s Critical Limb Center designed to make a difference for patients with advanced PAD/CLI. Over the last five years, our limb salvage rate was 97.4% at six months. One of my great joys is winning for patients with peripheral vascular disease.”

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