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Peripheral Artery Disease
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is narrow, weak, or blocked arteries. It may affect any arteries outside of your heart and brain. PAD is usually the result of a buildup of fat and cholesterol, also called plaque, along your artery walls. Inflammation, a blood clot, or abnormal cell growth could also block your arteries. PAD prevents normal blood flow to your legs and arms. You are at risk of an amputation if poor blood flow keeps wounds from healing or causes gangrene (tissue death). Without treatment, PAD can also cause a heart attack or stroke.
Call 911 for the following:
- You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
- Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest
- and any of the following:
- Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat
- You have any of the following signs of a stroke:
- Numbness or drooping on one side of your face
- Weakness in an arm or leg
- Confusion or difficulty speaking
- Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss
Seek care immediately if:
- You have sores or wounds that will not heal.
- You notice black or discolored skin on your arm or leg.
- Your skin is cool to the touch.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- You have leg pain when you walk 1/8 mile (200 meters) or less, even with treatment.
- Your legs are red, dry, or pale, even with treatment.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
- Walk for 30 to 60 minutes at least 4 times a week. Your healthcare provider may also refer you to an supervised exercise program. The program helps increase how far you can walk without pain. It also helps you stay active in normal daily activities and may prevent disability caused by PAD.
- Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can worsen PAD. They can also increase your risk for a heart attack or stroke. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
- Manage other health conditions. Take your medicines as directed and follow your healthcare provider's instructions if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Perform foot care and check your blood sugar levels as directed if you have diabetes.
- Eat heart healthy foods. Eat whole grains, fruits, and vegetables every day. Limit salt and high-fat foods. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on a heart healthy diet. Ask if you need to lose weight. Your healthcare provider can help you create a healthy weight-loss plan.
You may be given any of the following:
- Antiplatelet medicine, such as aspirin, helps prevent blood clots and reduces the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
- Statin medicine helps lower your cholesterol and prevents your PAD from getting worse.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.