Heart & Vascular

Peripheral Arterial Disease

What is Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) and how can it affect you?

PAD occurs when extra cholesterol and other fats circulating in the blood collect in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to your limbs. This buildup (called plaque) narrows your arteries, often reducing or blocking the flow of blood. PAD is most often seen in the legs. A condition that raises the risk for heart attack and stroke, PAD affects more than eight million Americans over the age of 50.

Get screened for PAD, call (843)402-5000.

Coronary Artery Disease Diagram 


What are the risks for PAD?
  • Age: If you are over the age of 50.
  • Smoking: Current or past smoking can increase your risk four times.
  • Diabetes: One in three people with diabetes is likely to have PAD.
  • High blood pressure: Increases the risk of plaque development.
  • High cholesterol and fat: Excess cholesterol and fat in your blood contribute to the formation of plaque in the arteries, reducing or blocking blood flow to your heart, brain or limbs.
  • History of vascular disease, heart attack or stroke: You have a one-in-three chance of also having PAD.
  • Minority groups: African Americans and Hispanics are twice as likely to have PAD.

What are the signs and symptoms of PAD?
  • Fatigue heaviness, tiredness, cramping in the leg muscles (buttocks, thigh or calf) that occurs during activity such as walking or climbing stairs
  • Pain in the legs and/or feet that disturbs sleep
  • Sores or wounds on toes, feet or legs that heal slowly, poorly or not at all
  • Color changes in the skin of the feet, including paleness or blueness
  • Lower temperature in one leg compared to the other leg
  • Poor nail growth and decreased hair growth on toes and legs

Most people with PAD have mild or no symptoms, while others have leg pain when walking, called claudication.

If you have leg pain, numbness or other symptoms, don't dismiss them as a normal part of aging. Even if you don't have symptoms of peripheral artery disease, you may need to be screened if you are:

  • Over age 65
  • Over age 50 and have a history of diabetes or smoking
  • Under age 50, but have diabetes and other peripheral artery disease risk factors, such as obesity or high blood pressure

Having any of these signs or symptoms, call (843) 402-5000 to schedule a PAD screening.


How is PAD diagnosed?

The first step is to ask your healthcare provider about your risk for PAD. Your provider will complete a medical and family history, perform a physical exam and conduct diagnostic tests.

How is PAD treated?
Three main approaches to treating PAD:
  1. Making lifestyle changes
  2. Taking medication
  3. Having an endovascular procedure or surgery

Your healthcare provider will determine the best treatment options for you, based on your medical history.

The overall goals for treating PAD are to reduce symptoms, improve quality of life and mobility and prevent heart attack, stroke and amputation.

Questions to ask a healthcare provider:
  1. Does my medical history raise my risk for PAD?
  2. Which screening tests or exams are right for me?
  3. If I have PAD, what steps should I take to treat it?
  4. Will PAD increase my risk for other conditions?
  5. What non-invasive types of procedures are available to treat PAD?

For more information

The Roper St. Francis Heart & Vascular Center offers a potentially lifesaving screening for patients who have risk factors for peripheral arterial disease but do not have a diagnosis that would meet medical necessity guidelines for a diagnostic test.

To schedule this screening, please call (843) 402-5000.

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