Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is also known as atherosclerosis, poor circulation, or hardening of the arteries. PAD progresses over time at variable rates in each individual depending on the area of circulation effected and one's health and family history.
The signs and symptoms of PAD may not arise until later in life. For many, the outward indications will not appear until the artery has narrowed by 60 percent or more.
One method the body uses to adapt to the narrowed arteries is the development of smaller peripheral arteries that allow blood flow around the narrowed area. This process is known as collateral circulation and may help explain why many can have PAD without feeling any symptoms.
When an artery totally occludes (becomes totally blocked) or when a piece of cholesterol, calcium or blood clot abruptly breaks from the lining of a narrowed artery, blood flow will be totally obstructed and the organ supplied by that artery will suffer damage. The organs in PAD most commonly affected are the brain, kidneys, intestines, and the muscles of the legs.
Commonly, PAD may affect the legs by causing symptoms of leg discomfort in the calf, the thigh, or the buttock during walking. This pain is called intermittent claudication. However, many people with PAD will experience atypical symptoms in the legs or few symptoms at all until the disease is far advanced. PAD may be so severe as to cause skin ulcers on the feet or legs or pain at rest in the lower legs and feet.
| Femoral artery in leg opened with stent
|| Blocked iliac artery leading into the leg