Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday: What is Peripheral Arterial Disease


Peripheral arterial disease occurs when there is a thickening and hardening of the arterial vessels. 

“Basically it is cholesterol and fat deposits that are narrowing the artery, very similar to what we see in coronary artery disease,” said Dr. Ben Mathew, a cardiologist with Cardiovascular Associates of Charlottesville.

There are warning signs patients experience though that signal there could be a problem.

“They’ll start to experience pain, which we called claudication with exertion,” said Dr. Mathew.  “Whenever they exert themselves they’ll get pain in their thigh, which at first may be mild, but then can get progressively worse over time.”

If you do experience issues, it’s best to see your primary care doctor – and don’t wait too long.

“The real concern with peripheral arterial disease is that it can get worse and worse to where patients will need amputations of their limbs, because they just aren’t delivering enough blood flow to the limbs,” noted Mathew.

When it’s caught early however, often times there are things you can do, without having to go through surgery, to fix the problem.

“The first step in treating the disease is lifestyle modifications,” said Dr. Mathew.  “Exercise is a big piece, and then potentially medications may be used.  At the far end of the continuum is more invasive therapy.”

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Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday

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