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Conditions We Treat: Peripheral Artery Disease (Peripheral Arterial Disease)

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a blockage or narrowing (stenosis) of arteries that supply blood flow to the legs. This is often due to a buildup of fatty plaque inside the arteries. There are many causes of PAD, but the two most common risk factors are Diabetes and a history of smoking cigarettes. PAD, once known as peripheral vascular disease (PVD), comes in many forms with a wide rang of symptoms, ranging from pain with walking (claudication) to ulceration and gangrene. Treatment of PAD includes risk factor modification, however revascularization may be necessary for lifestyle-limiting symptoms or to decrease the risk of amputation.

Peripheral Artery Disease: What You Need to Know

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  • Peripheral artery disease is usually caused by atherosclerosis — the buildup of fatty plaque, cholesterol and other deposits inside your artery walls. While most PAD is asymptomatic, severe PAD can lead to amputation. Everyone should know that the majority of patients with PAD will never develop severe PAD, and just because you have been diagnosed with PAD does not mean that you need a vascular procedure.
  • The two most common risk factors for PAD are diabetes and a history of tobacco use.
  • Claudication, a pain or weakness in the leg muscles that occurs while walking or exercising, is often one of the first symptoms of peripheral artery disease. The pain typically occurs after walking up hills or walking a specific distance. It is improved by stopping and standing still, and is reproducible.
  • Your vascular surgeon's goals will be to reduce atherosclerosis through medication and lifestyle changes. Stenting — inserting an expanding tube that pushes open the artery — may become necessary.
  • The most consistently effective, noninvasive treatment for peripheral artery disease is exercise.

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Why choose Johns Hopkins Heart and Vascular Institute for treatment of peripheral artery disease?

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Our Physicians

Our experts in vascular medicine and vascular surgery offer expert interventions, including noninvasive and minimally invasive options, as well as traditional open surgery.

Learn more about vascular treatments at Johns Hopkins.

Meet our physicians:
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Our Treatments

Dr. Thomas Reifsnyder discusses limb-saving therapies for peripheral artery disease.

Watch the video.