Peripheral Artery Disease: Causes, Symptoms, Medications


Peripheral artery disease (PAD), also called peripheral arterial disease, is a common disorder that occurs in the arteries of the circulatory system. As a result of peripheral artery disease, narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs. The legs are most commonly affected by peripheral artery disease, but other arteries may also be involved.

If you have peripheral artery disease, it is likely that there is a more widespread accumulation of fatty deposits in your arteries. This condition will reduce blood flow to your heart and brain, as well as legs.

According to statistics, about 12-14 percent of the general population suffer from PAD. In the USA, 12-20 percent of Americans over 65 are affected. The total number of Americans with PAD is 10 million.



In many cases, PAD is caused by atherosclerosis, in which fatty deposits (plaques) build up on your artery walls and reduce blood flow. Usually, atherosclerosis reduces blood flow to your brain. However, it may have impact on the arteries throughout your body. When atherosclerosis occurs in those arteries responsible for supplying blood to limbs, it causes PAD.

Other less common but possible causes of Peripheral artery disease involve:

  • Blood vessel inflammation
  • Injury to limbs
  • Unusual anatomy of your ligaments or muscles
  • Radiation exposure

Risk factors

There are some factors may increase the chance of developing Pad. These factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity (a body mass index over 30)
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Increasing age, especially after reaching 50 years of age
  • A family history of peripheral artery disease, heart disease or stroke
  • High levels of homocysteine, a protein component that helps build and maintain tissue


People with PAD may have the following symptoms:

  • Painful cramping in one or both of your hips, thighs or calf muscles after certain activities, such as walking or climbing stairs (claudication)
  • Leg numbness or weakness
  • Coldness in your lower leg or foot, especially when compared with the other side
  • Sores on your toes, feet or legs that won’t heal
  • A change in the color of your legs
  • Hair loss or slower hair growth on your feet and legs
  • Slower growth of your toenails
  • Shiny skin on your legs
  • No pulse or a weak pulse in your legs or feet
  • Erectile dysfunction in men

The pain caused by peripheral artery disease is mainly triggered by your activity. Moreover, it may disappear shortly after rest. Nevertheless, if PAD progresses, you may feel painful even when you are having a rest or lying down.


Your doctor may make a diagnosis of PAD with the following tests:

  • Physical exam.

The doctor can find signs of PAD during a physical exam.

  • Ankle-brachial index (ABI).

It’s a common test to diagnose PAD, which compares the blood pressure in your ankle with the blood pressure in your arm.

  • Ultrasound.

With the help of special ultrasound imaging techniques, your doctor can evaluate blood flow through your blood vessels and identify blocked or narrowed arteries.

  • Angiography

This test allows your doctor to view blood flow through your arteries as it happens.

  • Blood tests.

Your cholesterol and triglycerides can be measured by a sample of your blood.


Treatment for peripheral artery disease primarily focus on managing symptoms and stopping the progression of atherosclerosis throughout your body to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. An early lifestyle change may be a very effective option. Besides, quitting smoking is the single most important thing for smokers.

Additional medical treatment will be necessary if you have symptoms of PAD.


  • Cholesterol-lowering medications

A cholesterol-lowering drug called a statin is often prescribed to reduce risk of heart attack and stroke.

Statins: Uses & Side Effects

  • High blood pressure medications

If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medications to lower it.

  • Medications to control blood sugar

If you have diabetes as well, your doctor may help you control your blood sugar levels.

  • Medications to prevent blood clots

Your doctor may prescribe daily aspirin therapy or another medication, such as clopidogrel (Plavix), to improve your blood flow.

FDA Approved Drugs and User Comments: ASPIRIN

Clopidogrel – Plavix

  • Symptom-relief medications

Cilostazol or pentoxifylline may be helpful to increase blood flow by keeping the blood thin and widening the blood vessels. Cilostazol is more effective with some side effects, while pentoxifylline is less effective with rare side effects.

FDA Approved Drugs and User Comments: CILOSTAZOL

FDA Approved Drugs and User Comments: PENTOXIFYLLINE

If you have peripheral artery disease, please consult your doctor to find the best treatment option for you.

Keywords: peripheral artery disease; atherosclerosis

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.