Peripheral Arterial Disease
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is caused by circulatory problems that reduce the amount of blood reaching your extremities — most often, the legs. While it can be painful on its own, causing leg cramps, pain, and numbness, it is a sign of a larger (and very serious) problem called atherosclerosis (plaque buildup). When you start to feel pain in the legs from lack of blood, the chances are that the blood vessels supplying your heart and brain have atherosclerosis and are vulnerable.
Many people who suffer from peripheral arterial disease may not know it at first, experiencing mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. The most common peripheral arterial disease symptoms are:
- Intermittent claudication, or leg pain while walking
- Leg cramps (commonly in the calf) or arm cramps
- Pain during physical activity that subsides after a period of rest
- Numbness in the legs
- Sores or injuries on the feet and toes that do not heal
- One leg or foot that is colder than the other
- As the disease progresses you may notice pain in the legs even when resting
Peripheral Arterial Disease Treatment
If you notice some of the symptoms of peripheral arterial disease, or you are at risk for developing the disease, contact your doctor right away to get screened and find out more about how you can treat the condition. People most at risk are those over age 70, or over age 50 with a history of diabetes and/or smoking. Individuals who have high blood pressure, obesity, or diabetes and are younger than 50 years may be at risk as well.
Most peripheral artery disease treatment focuses on managing the symptoms so you can resume your daily activities and reduce the buildup of plaque in the arteries.
Some of the lifestyle changes a doctor will recommend include:
- Quitting smoking
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a healthy diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein
Depending on your situation, a doctor may also recommend additional medical treatment that includes prescription medication to reduce blood clots, reduce your blood pressure, and control high cholesterol. In severe cases, you may also need angioplasty, stent placement or arterial bypass surgery to treat this disease.
Get Screened for PAD Today
Identifying peripheral arterial disease is done with a simple screening called ABI that compares blood pressure in the legs and arms. Contact Brookhaven Heart today to get screened and learn more about how to manage this disease.