Peripheral Arterial Disease

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) occurs when not enough blood reaches your legs, thighs, buttocks, or arms because of blocked or narrowed arteries from plaque buildup. Find treatment to reduce your PAD symptoms and prevent progression from the vascular specialists at UNC Medical Center.

PAD Symptoms

When you live with PAD, you may experience symptoms such as cramping, weakness or pain in your legs when walking or climbing hills or stairs.


Typically, your doctor will prescribe lifestyle changes and medication first. Your treatment may include an exercise program, anti-platelet drugs such as aspirin or Plavix, and assistance to quit smoking.

Your UNC vascular specialist may recommend least-invasive endovascular procedures or surgery if your symptoms are severe, or if lifestyle modifications and medication don’t improve your PAD. These treatments include:

  • Atherectomy – Uses a catheter inserted into your artery with a miniature blade or laser on the end to remove plaque buildup in your arteries
  • Balloon angioplasty with or without bypass intervention – Threads a catheter to the affected artery and inflates a small balloon to reopen it
  • Stent placement – Implants a stent (a tiny wire mesh cylinder) to help hold the artery open, usually with or after angioplasty
  • Lower extremity bypass surgery – Uses a natural or synthetic graft to “bypass” and reroute blood around a blocked artery in one of your legs

PAD-Associated Risk Referrals

PAD can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. Take advantage of a referral to a UNC cardiologist who can help manage your increased risk of narrowed or blocked arteries in the heart.

Diabetes may worsen PAD. Your UNC vascular specialists may also consult with or refer you to the UNC Diabetes Care Center for help managing your diabetes.

Get support for hard-to-heal open wounds or ulcers in your legs with severe PAD by asking for a referral to the UNC Wound Healing and Podiatry Clinic. You’ll find the most advanced wound healing therapies available, including hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Clinical Trials

You may be eligible to receive UNC Medical Center’s new and advanced therapies through participation in clinical trials. Learn more at Join the Conquest.

Contact Us

Call the Heart & Vascular Center referral line at 866-862-4327 to find vascular specialists, make an appointment or learn more about vascular care.

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