Peripheral Artery Disease 

What is Peripheral Artery Disease?

Peripheral artery disease occurs when narrowed arteries reduce the blood flow to your limbs, especially your legs. It is a common sign of atherosclerosis (narrowing or hardening of the arteries) in other parts of the body. That can mean that you’re at a higher risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

  • Many people mistake the symptoms of PAD for something else.
  • PAD often goes undiagnosed by healthcare professionals.
  • People with peripheral arterial disease have a much higher risk of heart attack or stroke.
  • Left untreated, PAD can lead to gangrene and amputation

Risk Factors of Peripheral Artery Disease

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Older than age 60
  • Men and women are equally affected by PAD; however, black race/ethnicity is associated with an increased risk of PAD. People of Hispanic origin may have similar to slightly higher rates of PAD compared to non-Hispanic whites.

Symptoms and Risk Factors of Peripheral Artery Disease

The most common symptoms of PAD involving the lower extremities are cramping, pain or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles while walking or climbing stairs. Typically, this pain goes away with rest and returns when you walk again.

Other signs and symptoms of peripheral artery disease include:

  • Numbness, achiness, or heaviness in your leg muscles when walking or climbing stairs
  • Weak or absent pulses in your legs or feet
  • Sores or wounds on your toes, feet or legs that heal poorly or not at all
  • Skin on your legs that is shiny, pale or bluish
  • A lower temperature in one leg than the other leg
  • Poor toenail growth and decreased hair growth on your legs
  • Erectile dysfunction, especially among men who have diabetes

Diagnosing Peripheral Artery Disease at UNC REX Healthcare

We have a full range of diagnostic tools and techniques for determining whether you have peripheral artery disease. Your physician may recommend any of the following tests:

Peripheral Artery Disease Treatment at UNC REX Healthcare

Surgery for peripheral artery disease restores blood flow to your limbs, a process called revascularization. We offer several surgical treatment options, including:


During an atherectomy, your doctor uses a catheter and tiny tools to safely and precisely remove plaque from the walls of your arteries. With this treatment, you gain better blood flow without the use of a stent.

PA Bypass Surgery

If the plaque buildup in your artery is severe, your doctor may recommend bypass surgery. During this procedure, your doctor uses a vein from another part of your body or a synthetic tube to create a new pathway. This pathway re-reroutes your blood so it bypasses—or goes around—the blocked artery.

Angioplasty and Stenting

During an angioplasty, your doctor guides a thin tube called a catheter through your arteries to the site of the plaque buildup. The catheter has a tiny balloon on the end. Your doctor inflates the balloon to press the plaque against the wall of the artery and restore blood flow. To keep your arteries open, your doctor may also use the catheter to place a small mesh tube called a stent.

Preparing for your PAD Procedure

To help your procedure go as smoothly as possible, follow your doctor’s instructions on how to prepare. Be sure to:

  • Talk to your doctor about what medicines, supplements or vitamins you should take or avoid before your procedure. 
  • Stop eating and drinking at midnight on the night before your procedure. You may use a small sip of water to take any necessary medications.

Managing Peripheral Artery Disease at UNC REX Healthcare

If your doctor does not believe surgery is necessary to minimize your risk for heart attack or stroke, he or she may recommend one or more of the following:

  • Medications that lower cholesterol or prevent blood clots
  • Diabetes management
  • Lifestyle change, such as quitting smoking
  • Exercise programs
  • Regular follow-up care to monitor your condition

Contact Us

Take an online PAD Aware assessment to discover your odds of developing peripheral artery disease. You’ll find out if you qualify for a free in-person medical screening and consultation.

To find a UNC REX Healthcare physician near you, call 919-784-4490.

Learn Your Risk

Take an online Heart Aware, Vascular Aware or PAD Aware assessment to discover your odds of developing a cardiovascular disease. You’ll find out if you qualify for further screenings or consultations.

Take a free Peripheral Artery Disease online health assessment now

Peripheral Artery Diasease Screening

Upcoming Peripheral Artery Disease Screenings:

Screenings are easy, quick and painless- take time to schedule yours.

To find out if you are at risk take our online assessment or contact Lisa Horton at (919) 784-6037 or

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