Why Does Kidney Disease Lead to Higher Risk of Developing PAD?
When something goes wrong in one part of the body, it can also go wrong somewhere else. This is because the different systems of the body are intricately connected. If you are wondering if peripheral artery disease (PAD) affects the kidneys, you’re right to have concerns. PAD is a condition marked by restricted blood flow to the lower extremities, and it’s often caused by atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup in the arteries.
There is a connection between atherosclerosis and kidney disease, too. In fact, atherosclerosis can lead to both PAD and kidney disease. Those who have recently received a diagnosis of kidney failure may be asking, “How does atherosclerosis affect the kidneys?”
When you have atherosclerosis in one part of the vascular system, you may also have it in another. No matter where in the vascular system it is found, plaque buildup causes trouble. Plaque buildup in the renal arteries, which lead to the kidneys, is called “renal artery stenosis,” while plaque buildup in the arteries leading to the lower extremities is peripheral artery disease.
Recent studies suggest¹ that even mild to moderate kidney disease is linked with an increased risk of peripheral artery disease. A high level of protein (albumin) in the urine, called “albuminuria,” is associated with a higher rate of PAD-related leg amputation.
Due to lack of adequate blood flow, atherosclerosis in the kidney-specific arteries can lead to kidney failure. If you have concerns about kidney failure, atherosclerosis, and peripheral artery disease, our doctors at USA Vascular Centers can help.
What Causes Kidney Failure?
Before we can understand what causes kidney failure, we need to understand the importance of this pair of organs. The main function of the kidneys is to filter your blood and flush out waste in the form of urine. Acids are also removed from the blood that help produce necessary hormones, and maintain the right balance of minerals, water, and salts.
These two bean-shaped organs work hard together to filter the average person’s 8 to 12 liters of blood around 40 times every day. Chronic kidney disease occurs when the kidneys do not function as they should. Kidney disease is commonly detected with a blood test that measures a person’s “eGFR,” which stands for “Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate.” Doctors may also measure the level of a type of protein called “albumin” in your urine, as it helps estimate your level of kidney damage: a healthy set of kidneys does not allow any albumin into the urine. A normal eGFR number is anywhere between 60 and 120, but if you have a normal GFR and albumin in your urine, you may still be diagnosed with kidney disease.
The risk factors for kidney disease include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Genetic history of kidney disease
- Advanced age
- Using medications that harm the kidneys, such as naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin, for too long or too often
Kidney failure causes² include diabetes (type 1 and type 2), high blood pressure, kidney infections that keep coming back, cysts on the kidneys, inflammation of the kidney’s filter units, and ongoing obstruction of the urinary tract.
There is no cure for chronic kidney disease, and it eventually leads to kidney failure. However, there are many measures patients can take to slow the progression of the disease. These include lifestyle modifications and medications to help control high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Patients with kidney failure may need dialysis, a process in which an artificial kidney filters your blood or a kidney transplant.
It’s important to note that additional causes of kidney failure can include some critical illnesses or injuries. These issues can cause acute kidney failure, which is a life-threatening situation. However, acute kidney failure can also be reversed with emergency treatment after the underlying, acute illness or injury is resolved.
Warning Signs of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
Once you have an understanding of what causes kidney failure, you can keep an eye out for potential symptoms of chronic kidney disease. Symptoms to watch out for include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, a change in urination patterns, trouble sleeping, and muscle cramps.
If you have any of the risk factors for chronic kidney disease and you experience one or more of these symptoms, ask your doctor about getting tested for chronic kidney disease. The symptoms can be easy to mistake for something else, as they are not specific to chronic kidney disease, which is why it’s important to understand your risk factors.
Why it’s Important to Diagnose PAD in Patients with Chronic Kidney Disease
Researchers don’t fully understand why kidney disease can lead to an increased risk of atherosclerosis and PAD, but the link between the two is unmistakable. As a patient’s eGFR value decreases, indicating later-stage kidney disease, the risk of peripheral artery disease increases.
In addition, having both PAD and chronic kidney disease increases the chances of serious complications, such as death and amputation. Minimally invasive procedures, such as angioplasty and stent placement, may help improve blood flow in patients with PAD and CKD. At USA Vascular Centers, our expert physicians are highly skilled in performing these non-surgical treatments.
If doctors test for PAD upon learning that a patient has chronic kidney disease, treatment can be tailored to help address both diseases, which can result in better outcomes.
Schedule a Consultation with USA Vascular Centers
If you have chronic kidney disease and are worried you might have PAD, come see us at USA Vascular Centers. Our doctors can perform a quick ankle-brachial index test to diagnose peripheral artery disease and provide you with a personalized treatment plan to help alleviate symptoms of PAD.
Our doctors offer minimally invasive, non-surgical treatments such as angioplasty, stent placement, and atherectomy, which can open blocked arteries and slow the progression of PAD. Schedule a consultation with one of our vascular specialists online or call us at 888.773.2193 today. We look forward to helping improve your quality of life.
- Matsushita, MD, Kunihiro, Shoshana H Ballew, PhD, and Prof Josef Coresh, MD et al. “Measures of Chronic Kidney Disease and Risk of Incident Peripheral Artery Disease: a Collaborative Meta-Analysis of Individual Participant Data.” The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, July 14, 2017. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/landia/article/PIIS2213-8587(17)30183-3/fulltext#%20.
- “Chronic Kidney Disease.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, September 3, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-kidney-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20354521.