When Is it Time to Get Treatment for PAD?

If you suspect you have peripheral artery disease (PAD) symptoms, you may be wondering if you should make an appointment with a doctor. PAD occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries leading to your legs. This causes restricted blood flow, and as time progresses, the condition steadily gets worse.

The symptoms of PAD can echo those of aging, making it difficult to tell whether you should seek an appointment. Or, if you already have a confirmed case of PAD, you may be wondering, “How can you tell when it’s time to receive treatment for PAD?”

When PAD is already present and diagnosed, seek treatment as soon as possible. Every day counts when it comes to peripheral artery disease treatment. In addition, PAD can be tricky because it doesn’t always come with clear symptoms immediately. That’s why we strongly suggest seeking out PAD treatment if you have any PAD risk factors.

Signs You Need Treatment for PAD

In addition to paying attention to any PAD risk factors you may have, it’s important to keep an eye out for the common symptoms of PAD. The most common symptom is leg pain that begins when you’re doing activities, such as walking or climbing stairs, and stops once you’re sitting down. The medical term for this symptom is intermittent claudication.

The leg pain can feel like cramps, as though you’re getting a charley horse, or it can feel dull and achy. It can occur in the calf, thigh, buttocks, or hips.3 The more activity you do, the worse the pain gets. This discomfort often limits activity in people with PAD. However, getting exercise every day can help slow the advancement of the disease, so it’s important to make an appointment with a board-certified vascular doctor who can help treat the PAD symptoms and put together an exercise plan.

Without treatment, intermittent claudication will worsen to the point that your legs will ache even when you’re at rest. This indicates a severe blockage in the arteries leading to your legs. If you’re experiencing leg pain at rest, see a vascular doctor as soon as possible.

In addition to leg cramping, signs of PAD in the legs include:

In addition to leg cramping, signs of PAD in the legs include:

  • Skin that’s cold to the touch
  • Slower toenail growth
  • Patchy leg hair indicating hair loss or slowed hair growth
  • Wounds that take weeks or months to heal
  • Open, non-healing sores
  • Color changes in the skin

See a vascular doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms of PAD. At USA Vascular Centers, we offer virtual consultations and in-person appointments at our state-of-the-art outpatient centers, which are located throughout the United States. Our doctors can assess your PAD risk and put together a personalized treatment plan to address your symptoms.

What are the Best Treatments for PAD?

If your doctor diagnoses you with PAD, there are several ways to treat and manage symptoms. Lifestyle changes are important and can help slow the progression of mild PAD cases.4 Quitting smoking, beginning an exercise program, and sticking to a nutritious diet can all help keep your arteries healthy. Medications to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as manage diabetes, can also play a role in preventing plaque buildup.4

However, patients with moderate to severe PAD may require a procedure that widens the narrowed arteries. At USA Vascular Centers, our highly recommended vascular surgeons perform three minimally invasive procedures that can reduce symptoms of PAD: angioplasty, stent placement, and atherectomy. Each of these procedures is performed in our leading-edge, on-site cath labs.

Angioplasty involves inserting a balloon-tipped catheter into the vascular system. Once the catheter reaches a blocked area, it is inflated. This compresses the plaque against artery walls. In a stent placement, a vascular doctor performs an angioplasty but adds a mesh stent to prop the artery open. With an atherectomy, plaque is shaved off artery walls using a catheter with a laser or tiny blade.

These non-surgical procedures take roughly 30 to 45 minutes to complete. There are no stitches involved, and general anesthesia is not required. Patients can go home the same day, resting and recovering in the comfort of their own homes.

What Happens if PAD is Left Untreated?

Left untreated, PAD can result in critical limb ischemia, a condition in which blood flow to the leg or foot is severely or completely blocked. Without the oxygen and nutrients it needs from blood, the tissue will die (gangrene), and amputation will be necessary to save the patient’s life.

Additionally, if you have atherosclerosis and peripheral artery disease in the arteries leading to your legs, there’s a high chance it’s present in the arteries leading to the heart, kidneys, and brain. This puts you at risk of heart attack, stroke, and renal artery disease.

By making sure to seek out a PAD screening if you have any risk factors or PAD treatment if you have symptoms, your physician can monitor your vascular health, helping to avoid serious complications. If you’re not sure you have any risk factors or symptoms of PAD, take the USA Vascular Centers PAD risk assessment quiz to find out.


[1] “Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education
and Research, June 21, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peripheral-artery-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20350557.

[2] “What Is Arterial Plaque?” The Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions,
December 14, 2017.

[3] “Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention, September 27, 2021.

[4] “Prevention and Treatment of Pad.” www.heart.org, August 22, 2022.

[5] “Peripheral Vascular Disease: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment.” Cleveland Clinic.
Accessed September 1, 2022.

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