What is Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)?
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a chronic disorder associated with reduced blood flow to the extremities. PAD often causes severe pain in the extremities, limits mobility, and in some cases may lead to death. In the US alone, PAD affects nearly 12 million people, and if left untreated will lead to Critical Limb Ischemia with an annual cost of care estimated at $10 billion. 1 in every 20 adults over the age of 50 years, and 1 in every 4 adults over the age of 70 years are likely to develop PAD.
The primary cause of the disease is the buildup of fatty acids in the blood vessels, eventually blocking or weakening the vessel walls, ultimately resulting in reduced blood flow to the extremities. Blood clots, diabetes, inflammation, infection and injury can also lead to PAD.
Those with PAD can suffer from a wide range of symptoms and at differing levels of severity. Many with PAD experience mild symptoms while others can experience severe leg pain when walking. This is known as claudication which can include muscle weakness, muscle pain and cramping in the legs or arms. Calf pain when walking is most common, but pain can also persist in the thigh and buttock. Claudication symptoms tend to disappear after a few minutes of rest.
PAD symptoms often appear when walking or during any type of physical activity. Since PAD restricts or blocks blood flow, the necessary oxygen levels required for physical activity to the legs is impaired. Thus, in many cases, PAD causes severe neuropathic pain. As PAD progresses, pain may be experienced while lying down (ischemic rest pain) and can interfere with sleep. It is important to recognize the early signs of PAD and to seek treatment as soon as possible. In advanced stages of PAD, symptoms can become life threatening and require emergency intervention.