Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a common circulatory problem that affects millions of people in the United States. Left untreated, peripheral artery disease can lead to serious health problems such as heart attack, stroke, and amputation. But with early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, most people with PAD can maintain good health and quality of life. So, if you're experiencing any symptoms of PAD, it's important to see your doctor right away for diagnosis and treatment recommendations.
PAD is caused by atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the arteries from a buildup of fatty plaque. This eventually results in blocked arteries. The most common form is lower-extremity PAD, which is when blood flow is reduced to the legs and feet. This can cause pain, muscle cramps, and fatigue in the affected areas. Many people mistake the symptoms of PAD for something else, so it is important to know the symptoms as well as the risk factors so that treatment can be implemented before it escalates to a more serious condition.
There is a very strong correlation between smoking and PAD. Smoking is the most important risk factor for PAD in men and women. Smoking even increases your risk of PAD more than coronary artery disease. In fact, 80-90% of people with PAD are people who currently or were former smokers.
The prevalence of PAD increases with age. PAD occurs in 3% of people under the age of 60, while the prevalence increases to 15% to 20% for people over the age of 70.
High blood pressure promotes plaque formation. When there is too much plaque buildup, the arteries become narrowed and restrict blood flow which is the cause of PAD. High blood pressure can be controlled through exercise, diet, weight loss, and medication.
Since the plaque that accumulates in our arteries is made up of fats and cholesterol, it makes sense that having high cholesterol puts you at greater risk for developing PAD.
Often, the symptoms of PAD are mistaken for something else. If you are aware of the risk factors as well as the symptoms, it may help you in getting an accurate diagnosis. It is also important to note that almost half of people with PAD have no symptoms. Some of the symptoms of PAD include:
Leg numbness or weakness
Weak or no pulse in legs or feet
Painful cramping in one or both hips, thighs, or calf muscles after certain activities
Foot or toe wounds that wont heal or heal slowly
Poor nail growth on the toes
Changes in skin color of the legs and feet
Hair loss on extremities
While lifestyle changes may be an important part of treatment, there is also a minimally invasive procedure available that can help with symptoms of PAD. Endovascular treatments offer a lower risk alternative to open surgery. Types of endovascular treatments include angioplasty, bypass surgery, and thrombolytic therapy. If you think you may have PAD, make an appointment with your cardiologist.
We hope this article has helped you to understand PAD a little better. Now that you know the facts, talk to your doctor and take control of your cardiovascular health. Remember, early diagnosis is key to preventing heart attack or stroke. If you have any questions about PAD or other vascular diseases, please call us today for more information.