What Causes Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)?
Do you suffer from peripheral artery disease (PAD)? If so, you may struggle to walk up the stairs, perform daily activities, or sleep comfortably at night. PAD affects the body’s circulation and is usually caused by excess fat and cholesterol in the blood building up on the walls of your arteries. Over time, this buildup, known as atherosclerosis, can block blood flow to your limbs.
Peripheral artery disease can cause a range of painful and uncomfortable symptoms in your legs or feet. It is essential to note that because not everyone experiences symptoms in the early stages, you can have PAD and not be aware. The amount of plaque blocking your arteries will determine the severity of your condition.
Common symptoms of PAD include:
- Fatigue, heaviness, or cramping in the legs
- Difficulty walking or climbing stairs
- Pain that stops when at rest
- Foot and leg pain that disrupts sleep
- Slow or non-healing wounds
- Skin discoloration (pale or blue)
- Shiny skin on the legs
- One leg that is cooler than the other
- Cold or numb toe
- Poor toenail growth
- Loss of hair on legs
- Erectile dysfunction
Peripheral artery disease is considered to be a progressive condition. Without intervention, your PAD symptoms are likely to worsen over time. You should also be aware that vascular disease can place you at increased risk for having a heart attack or stroke. Advanced PAD can also lead to critical limb ischemia (gangrene) and the loss of a limb.
Causes of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
Your arteries have an important job to do. They are responsible for transporting blood from the heart to the limbs. When vascular disease disrupts this process, your lower extremities will not receive the oxygen and nutrients they need to work effectively. Consequently, your mobility and quality of life may decline.
The good news is that we have some understanding of what causes peripheral artery disease. As mentioned previously, PAD tends to develop as a result of plaque buildup in the arteries. Other potential PAD causes include blood vessel inflammation, injury to your limbs, radiation exposure, and unusual anatomy.
Unfortunately, the exact causes behind the plaque build up that leads to PAD are less clear. Why are some people affected while others are not? We know that there are numerous risk factors involved, including genetics and lifestyle factors. Although you can’t control your genes, you may be able to make certain lifestyle modifications to help alleviate symptoms and improve your vascular health.