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.
Peripheral Artery Disease Prevention
First and foremost, know that it is entirely possible to prevent peripheral artery disease. Your risks may increase as you age, but you can take early precautions. Firstly, you should know your family history of health-related issues, or if someone has had P.A.D. in the past.
On a personal level, you’ll want to control the following risk factors:
- Try to remain physically active.
- Undergo screening for peripheral artery disease.
- Eat heart-healthy foods.
- If you currently smoke, consider quitting. Discuss programs or products with your doctor to make quitting easier.
- If overweight, work with your doctor to create a weight-loss plan that works.
You can combat peripheral artery disease by controlling risk factors. With a little effort and confidence, you can lead a healthier lifestyle.
Peripheral Artery Disease Causes
Atherosclerosis often causes peripheral artery disease (PAD). In this condition, fatty deposits accumulate in the artery walls, reducing blood flow. The heart is the typical focus for atherosclerosis, though the disease often affects the arteries supplying blood to each limb. When it occurs in the legs, peripheral artery disease is not far behind. Less commonly, though, PAD can be caused by blood vessel inflammation, injury, radiation exposure, or unusual anatomy of the muscles or ligaments. Further risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Old age
- Family history
- Elevated levels of homocysteine (a protein that builds and maintains tissue)
If you experience any of these risk factors, speak with your doctor promptly. You’ll want to undergo testing for peripheral artery disease. We can take steps to reduce risk or combat the disease — contact Brookhaven Heart for a consultation today!
Peripheral Artery Disease Symptoms
Many people with peripheral artery disease experience mild symptoms or none at all. Some experience leg pain while walking, or muscle pain, or even slight cramping in the legs and arms. These symptoms are often triggered by physical activity, such as walking, but will disappear after a few minutes at rest.
As we said, the most common symptom is cramping. Other symptoms include:
- Leg pain that does not subside after exercise
- Foot or toe wounds that heal improperly or slowly
- Gangrene, or dead tissue on the extremities
- Decreased temperature in your lower leg or foot
- Poor nail growth
- Erectile dysfunction
If you experience any of these symptoms, contact Brookhaven Heart immediately. We’ll get you in touch with one of our expert physicians to discuss your options. The longer you wait, the worse your condition will become. Please do not hesitate to call!
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 Brookhavn Heart today to get screened and learn more about how to manage this disease.