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10 Common Questions About PAD

10 Common Questions About PAD

Has your doctor recently told you that you have peripheral artery disease, or that you are part of the population who is at risk for PAD? Peripheral artery disease is caused by plaque building up in the arteries (atherosclerosis). It is characterized by symptoms of poor blood circulation in arteries leading to the legs, feet, and ankles, and unfortunately, PAD cannot be completely cured. 

This news can make you feel instantly worried, but there’s good news when it comes to PAD treatment options and managing PAD symptoms, too: research shows there is a lot you can do to slow or even stop the progression of the disease.

For more guidance on the best treatment for PAD, make an appointment to see one of the skilled vascular doctors at USA Vascular Centers. We offer leading-edge treatments in the comfort of one of our many state-of-the-art outpatient centers, and our procedures take just two hours from the moment you arrive at our office until we see you off afterward. 


Q1. I Have Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). What Do I Do Now?

When you learn you have peripheral artery disease, the first step to take is to schedule an appointment with a vascular doctor to discuss your treatment options. Your vascular doctor can perform or order further testing to determine the severity of your peripheral artery disease. The Fontaine classification divides PAD into four stages:

  • Stage I: Asymptomatic PAD with some atherosclerosis present in the arteries
  • Stage II: Mild claudication pain in the legs, thighs, buttocks, or hips while walking or exercising
  • Stage IIA: Claudication pain when walking at a distance > 200 m (656 feet)
  • Stage IIB: Claudication pain when walking at a distance  < 200 m (656 feet)
  • Stage III: Claudication pain at rest, especially in the feet (critical limb ischemia)
  • Stage IV: Tissue death and gangrene leading to limb death

Your vascular doctor can help guide you through the risk management and treatment options that would work best based on your unique situation and stage of PAD. In addition, you can practice lifestyle changes that help slow the progress of the disease. If you smoke, consider beginning a quitting plan. If you struggle with healthy eating, reach out to a nutritionist. Begin an exercise program to strengthen your heart and lungs. 

Q2. What Are the Symptoms of PAD?

Claudication is one of the most common PAD symptoms, but there are other signs. The hair on your legs may stop growing due to poor blood circulation. Your toenail growth may also slow down, and areas in your legs, feet, and ankles may feel numb, tingly, or cold. 

In the more advanced stages of PAD, wounds can take weeks or months to heal. Painful, bloodless sores can develop on the lower extremities. Intermittent claudication can progress to constant pain, a sign of critical limb ischemia, and impending tissue death. Thankfully, paying attention to these symptoms and seeking treatment can help manage peripheral artery disease.

Q3. Am I At Risk For PAD?

The top risk factors for PAD are smoking and diabetes.3 If either of these risk factors applies to you, it’s crucial to get tested for PAD as soon as possible, even if you don’t have any symptoms. Other significant risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a sedentary lifestyle, and advanced age. The American Heart Association recommends PAD screening for anyone 65 or older, anyone between the ages of 50 and 64 who has risk factors for PAD, and anyone under the age of 50 with type 2 diabetes and one other risk factor.

Q4. Why is PAD a Wake-Up Call?

The symptoms of PAD should be taken seriously as they can be a red flag to more extensive problems such as heart disease. Sometimes, people consider leg pain a sign of aging or arthritis and believe that narrowing arteries only happens in the heart. 

However, people with PAD are likely to have coronary artery disease (CAD) and are at an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, amputation, and death. This is why it’s critically important to seek out PAD treatment options right away if you have a diagnosis.

Q5. What is the Relationship Between PAD and Intermittent Claudication?

During exercise, claudication is leg pain, especially walking or doing anything that engages the calves, thighs, buttocks, or hips. The pain is caused by insufficient blood flow in the legs due to atherosclerosis. Claudication is more noticeable during physical activity because the legs need increased oxygenated blood during exercise, especially in PAD’s early stages.

Over time, claudication often becomes constant. The arteries become so narrowed that the lower extremities never have enough oxygenated blood, causing unrelenting pain, heaviness, weakness, or tiredness.

Q6. Can PAD Symptoms Improve on Their Own?

Certain lifestyle changes can sometimes improve PAD symptoms, especially early disease progression. Quitting smoking, eating a nutritious diet, and beginning an exercise program can all help slow the progression of PAD. If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, taking medication can help manage those conditions and lower your risk of PAD. 

It’s important to note that it becomes more difficult to manage lifestyle changes alone when peripheral artery disease progresses past the early stages. This is where PAD treatment by a qualified vascular doctor plays a crucial role.

Q7. What Are My PAD Treatment Options?

Some of the most common treatment options for PAD are: minimally invasive procedures such as angioplasty, stent placement, and atherectomy. In some cases, a major procedure such as a bypass surgery may be needed. 

Q8. What Treatments Are Available at USA Vascular Centers?

At USA Vascular Centers, our highly qualified vascular doctors perform angioplasty, stent placement, and atherectomy procedures. 

During angioplasty, your vascular doctor will guide a balloon-tipped catheter through a tiny incision and into the affected artery. When the catheter reaches the clogged area, it will expand, compressing the plaque and widening the inner passage of the artery. In a stent placement, your doctor will perform an angioplasty but with an additional step: placing a small mesh stent in the artery to keep it propped open. 

An atherectomy involves using a laser or blade-tipped catheter to remove the plaque from the inner walls of the artery. A special receptacle collects the plaque, allowing it to be safely removed from the body.

Q9. What Happens After a Stent Angioplasty Procedure?

After an angioplasty, stent placement, or atherectomy procedure,  the pain and cramping caused by PAD can be reduced, allowing you to return to doing what you love. Maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle following a PAD treatment is paramount to maximizing the results of your treatment.

Q10. Does Insurance Cover the Cost of My PAD Treatment?

Medicare and most insurance plans usually cover all treatments at USA Vascular Centers. We have a dedicated insurance department to help our patients with insurance-related questions.

Schedule a Consultation with USA Vascular Centers

At USA Vascular Centers’ on-site representatives are happy to answer any questions you may have regarding insurance, treatment cost, setting up an appointment, and more. We want our patients to feel good about their treatment decisions. 

We offer safe, effective treatment for PAD, so you don’t have to suffer from symptoms anymore. Our outpatient centers are accredited by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Healthcare (AAAHC), which means that we strive to exceed the highest standards of patient care. Visit one of our locations or schedule a virtual or in-person appointment online today!

If you have any more vascular questions or concerns about PAD and treatment options, don’t hesitate to call us at 888.773.2193.


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