Understanding Atherosclerosis and Peripheral Artery Disease

Understanding Atherosclerosis and Peripheral Artery Disease

Vascular surgeon, Dr. Farouk Marzouk, and our team at Frontier Medical Care in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn, New York, specialize in diagnosing and treating conditions that affect your vascular health, including peripheral artery disease (PAD) caused by atherosclerosis.

What is atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis is a potentially dangerous condition that’s caused by a buildup of fatty deposits, cholesterol, and other substances in your arteries. When these deposits clump together, they become plaques that can eventually grow large enough to narrow and even fully block the vessel.

When the artery is unable to carry enough blood, the organ it serves cannot function. In the case of your heart, for instance, this disruption in blood flow can eventually lead to heart attack and death. Plaque buildup in your peripheral arteries can also threaten your health.

What is peripheral artery disease (PAD)?

Your peripheral arteries, those outside your heart and head, carry blood to other parts of your body, like your arms, legs, and kidneys. Like the coronary arteries, these blood vessels are susceptible to plaque buildup related to atherosclerosis.

PAD is typically the most symptomatic in the legs. It can, however, cause grave damage to other organs fueled by the peripheral arteries. A study published by the National Institutes of Health, for instance, describes a direct link between PAD and chronic kidney disease (CKD) that may result in kidney failure.

The signs of PAD often go undetected initially but worsen as the disease advances. Symptoms you may notice in your legs include:

Note that men with PAD may also experience erectile dysfunction.

Diagnosing and treating PAD

Along with a detailed review of your symptoms and an exam, Dr. Marzouk may recommend noninvasive imaging studies such as an angiogram or ultrasound to diagnose the health of your peripheral arteries.

Note that because coronary artery disease and PAD are driven by the same underlying condition (atherosclerosis), cardiac testing/imaging may also be advised. And if you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, we often recommend an evaluation of your peripheral arteries as well.

Depending on the extent of arterial damage, Dr. Marzouk might suggest changes in diet, increased exercise, and various medications to help slow the progression and relieve the symptoms associated with PAD.  

For more significant blockages, you may require minimally invasive angioplasty or atherectomy to remove the plaque. Extensive plaques that affect long portions of an artery might respond best to bypass surgery.

For a detailed evaluation of your peripheral artery health and an individualized treatment strategy that meets your needs, schedule a visit with Dr. Marzouk at Frontier Medical Care today.

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