Atherosclerosis: The Leading Cause of PAD
Have you been diagnosed with atherosclerosis? Atherosclerosis refers to the narrowing or blockage of arteries due to plaque buildup. If left untreated, atherosclerosis can lead to a range of symptoms as well as dangerous health issues like blood clots, heart attack, stroke, and limb amputation.
Atherosclerosis is a major risk factor for peripheral artery disease (PAD). More than 8 million people over the age of 40 in the United States suffer from PAD, which can impact mobility and lead to potentially life-threatening complications. Fortunately, treatment exists that can alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life.
At USA Vascular Centers, we believe that it is essential to understand the relationship between atherosclerosis and peripheral artery disease. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Atherosclerosis?
Atherosclerosis is a serious health condition that can develop when plaque (excess fats and cholesterol) builds up within the arteries. When this occurs, the affected arteries become narrowed or blocked. Without enough blood, oxygen, and nutrients traveling to the lower extremities, painful symptoms may make it difficult to walk or climb stairs.
Signs and Symptoms of Atherosclerosis
First of all, you should be aware that atherosclerosis does not always cause symptoms. In other words, you might already have mild atherosclerosis and not even know how severe your condition is. We also want you to understand that atherosclerosis symptoms can vary depending on which areas of the body are involved.
When the legs are impacted, you may experience:
- Difficulty walking or climbing stairs
- Leg pain, cramping, or weakness
- Slow or non-healing wounds
- Skin changes or discoloration
- Poor leg hair or toenail growth
- Erectile dysfunction
If you notice any of the above, we suggest contacting your doctor as soon as possible.
Atherosclerosis Causes and Risk Factors
You may be interested in learning more about the causes and risk factors for atherosclerosis. Depending on the severity of your condition, treatment may not be necessary and lifestyle changes may be suggested. In fact, atherosclerosis treatment often begins with recommendations to quit smoking, eat a healthier diet, and get more exercise.
What Causes Atherosclerosis?
Atherosclerosis is caused by plaque buildup in the arteries. This plaque consists of excess fats, cholesterol, and other substances circulating in the bloodstream.
What Are the Risk Factors for Atherosclerosis?
There are numerous risk factors for atherosclerosis. You are more likely to develop it if you:
- Eat a poor diet
- Are obese or overweight
- Are inactive
- Have high blood pressure
- Have high cholesterol levels
- Have diabetes
- Are over 50 years old
If you are at risk for developing atherosclerosis, we recommend visiting your doctor. They can identify helpful lifestyle modifications, refer you to medical weight loss/smoking cessation programs, prescribe medications to address underlying health conditions, or recommend treatment.
Complications of Atherosclerosis
Although it may be tempting to ignore a diagnosis of atherosclerosis, we don’t recommend waiting until your symptoms worsen. Even if your pain is mild, it will eventually get worse and impact your ability to walk, exercise, or enjoy your life to its fullest. Atherosclerosis can also place you at increased risk for peripheral artery disease, blood clots, heart attack, stroke, and limb amputation.
If you have atherosclerosis, we urge you to take control of the situation. The good news is that lifestyle changes, medications, and treatment can help. Vascular specialists trained in the diagnosis and treatment of PAD can be a great resource. They are trained in helping you choose a treatment that fits your individual needs.
How Is Atherosclerosis Linked to PAD?
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a progressive vascular condition that most commonly affects the legs, ankles, and feet. When atherosclerosis occurs in the arteries leading to the lower extremities, they are not able to receive enough nutrients, oxygen, or blood. Atherosclerosis in the lower extremities can lead to PAD.
Atherosclerosis vs. Peripheral Artery Disease
The presence of atherosclerosis does not necessarily mean that you have peripheral artery disease. Atherosclerosis is the most common cause of PAD, but it can occur in any artery in the body. Peripheral artery disease most commonly affects the lower extremities, which is why most people experience symptoms like muscle pain or weakness in their legs.
If you have atherosclerosis or are at risk of developing it, we suggest taking action now so that you don’t needlessly suffer from the effects of PAD in the future.
Schedule a Consultation With USA Vascular Today
If you are concerned about your vascular health, it is important to turn to an expert for help. When left untreated, atherosclerosis can cause peripheral artery disease, loss of mobility, and life-threatening issues.
At USA Vascular Centers, we specialize in the treatment of peripheral artery disease. Our vascular specialists can work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that may include lifestyle modifications, medications, and special procedures. With appropriate treatment, it is possible to regain mobility and experience a better quality of life.
To get started on your path to recovery, schedule an appointment online today. We offer dozens of clinic locations nationwide, along with virtual doctor visits. We look forward to helping you take control of your vascular health.