What is the Difference Between Peripheral Artery Disease and Coronary Artery Disease?
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) and coronary artery disease (CAD) are two serious arterial medical conditions. Both are caused by plaque buildup along the artery walls, resulting in restricted blood flow. While both PAD and CAD have the same causes, they are two distinct diseases with different symptoms and treatment. PAD affects arteries of the limbs or peripheral areas of the body, predominantly in the legs. CAD develops from plaque accumulation in the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart.
PAD and CAD are progressive conditions that, if left untreated, can lead to more serious health issues like heart attack, stroke, or limb amputation. At USA Vascular Centers, we offer non-surgical treatments for those who suffer from PAD that can improve mobility and prevent the progression of the disease.
PAD vs. CAD Symptoms
Patients with PAD may experience no symptoms or only mild issues at the onset of the disease, however, symptoms may worsen as PAD progresses. These symptoms can include:
- Leg pain, especially during physical activity
- Leg discoloration
- Numbness or weakness in the legs
- Arterial ulcers on the feet that won’t heal
- Feeling of heaviness in the legs
If you notice these symptoms, you may be at risk for developing peripheral artery disease. It is important to know that treatment can help prevent PAD from getting worse and help alleviate the symptoms.
While PAD most often affects your lower extremities, CAD typically impacts the chest area. The most common symptom of CAD is angina, also known as chest pain. Angina is caused by restricted blood flow to the heart and can lead to heart disease. A heart attack is often the first indication that a person has CAD, which may include the following symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Weakness and light-headedness
- Cold sweat
- Shoulder and arm pain
- Shortness of breath
If you experience these symptoms, you should seek medical help as soon as possible, because these can be indicators of a heart attack. CAD can also weaken the heart over time, which may lead to heart failure and the need for a pacemaker or heart transplant.
Treatment for PAD vs. Treatment for CAD
Treatment of PAD often involves important lifestyle changes, which may include following a healthy diet and quitting smoking. Regular exercise also helps improve blood flow and assists with weight loss if you’re overweight.
In addition to these changes, there are several non-surgical procedures for the treatment of peripheral artery disease. These include:
- Angioplasty, a treatment where a balloon is inserted into the affected artery to open it up and increase blood flow
- Stent placement, a procedure where a mesh stent is placed inside the artery to keep it open
- Atherectomy, a procedure that involves scraping the plaque off the artery walls
Treatment for PAD can help alleviate the symptoms and improve your quality of life, allowing you to be more active without pain. Early intervention can also prevent progression of the disease.
Several treatment options are available for patients diagnosed with CAD. Doctors may also prescribe medications, such as aspirin, beta blockers, and cholesterol-modifying medications to slow down the progression of the disease. To prevent a heart attack or control chest pain, your doctor may prescribe nitroglycerin or ranolazine.
For more advanced cases of CAD, the doctor may recommend more aggressive treatments, including:
- Angioplasty and stent placement
- Coronary artery bypass surgery
Can You Have PAD and CAD?
Since both PAD and CAD are caused by plaque buildup, it is possible to have the two conditions at the same time. If you have been diagnosed with CAD, you should be aware that it may increase your risk of developing PAD. Approximately 42% of patients diagnosed with CAD also have PAD. Since many patients do not experience any symptoms of PAD, it’s also important to seek a vascular health evaluation so your PAD doesn’t go undiagnosed.