Many people have heard of peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, but they're not sure what it means. ...
Read the full transcript »
Many people have heard of peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, but they're not sure what it means. Your arteries are a network of blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood throughout your body. PAD is a type of atherosclerosis, which means there is a gradual build up of fatty material called plaque inside an artery. As plaque builds up, it can reduce the flow of blood and oxygen in the artery. The part of the body affected depends on where the artery is located. In coronary artery disease, build up of plaque in the coronary arteries reduces the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. This is the most common cause of heart attacks. In PAD, plaque builds up in the arteries that supply blood to your extremities, especially your legs. When blood flow is reduced, the muscle cells in your legs don't get the oxygen they need. This can cause symptoms like pain and cramping when you walk or exercise, especially in your calf muscles. Other symptoms include cold feet and legs, changes in skin color, sores that won't heal, altered sensation, and loss of hair. If the narrowing is severe, it can cause permanent damage to tissue due to lack of blood and oxygen. If you have symptoms of PAD, it's important to talk to your doctor before damage occurs.