Arterial Disease Conditions

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD), sometimes called “hardening of the arteries,” is a common circulatory problem. With PAD, the arteries become narrow because plaque (called atherosclerosis) has built up. This can reduce blood flow to your legs and, less often, your arms. Atherosclerosis is directly related to high cholesterol levels. PAD affects men and women equally. African-Americans and Hispanics have a higher risk. Cross County Cardiology – Mount Sinai has extensive experience with this condition.

Symptoms of Arterial Disease

PAD can cause various symptoms. The most common are numbness or weakness in the legs; pain or cramping in the legs after walking or climbing stairs; coldness in the legs, feet, or toes sores or color changes on the legs; hair loss or shiny skin on legs and feet; weak leg pulse; and erectile dysfunction. However, it is possible to have PAD and display none of these symptoms, especially if you are at high risk for the condition.

Risk factors for PAD include smoking (which increases your risk two to four times), obesity, high blood pressure (over 140/90), diabetes, aging, and a family history of heart disease or stroke. Left untreated, PAD can cause critical limb ischemia (open sores that do not heal, sometimes developing into gangrene and requiring amputation), stroke, and heart attack.

Most of the time, doctors diagnose PAD during a physical examination if we find that you have a weak pulse in your arms or legs—or no pulse at all. We also use the ankle-brachial index. This test compares the blood pressure in your arm with the blood pressure in your ankle. Other noninvasive approaches to diagnosis include Doppler ultrasound (which can show actual blood flow through the arteries to pinpoint blockages or narrowed arteries), specialized blood tests, and angiography.

We cannot eliminate PAD altogether, but we can manage your symptoms and stop the progression of atherosclerosis. By preventing more plaque from developing, we can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. In some cases, we can do this through lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation, weight loss, and regular exercise. In other cases, we can use medication to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure levels, control blood sugar, and prevent blood clots.