Peripheral Artertial Disease, or PAD, affects the blood vessels outside the heart and brain. It is often a narrowing of vessels that carry blood to the legs, arms, stomach or kidneys.
Peripheral arterial disease occurs when plaque, a substance made up of fat and cholesterol, builds up on the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the arms and legs. The plaque causes the arteries to narrow or become blocked. This can reduce or stop blood flow, usually to the legs, causing them to hurt or feel numb. If severe enough, it can cause tissue death and require a foot or leg to be amputated.
A person with PAD also has an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and transient ischemic attack. The buildup of plaque can often be reversed or stopped with dietary changes, exercise, medication and efforts to lower high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Sometimes surgery is recommended.
Arterial Duplex Imaging uses high-frequency ultrasound to visualize the arteries in the legs and the velocity and direction of blood flow in those arteries. It is used to diagnose and treat peripheral arterial disease.