Symptoms of PAD can be debilitating and especially painful if left untreated. Peripheral Artery Disease, also known as PAD, is a common condition that occurs in the lower legs and ankles. PAD affects affects 1 out of every 20 Americans over the age of 50. PAD is described as the narrowing of the peripheral arteries. It can occur anywhere in the body, however it most commonly occurs in the lower legs and ankles.
Arteries are hollow tubes where blood travels away from the heart, supplying our organs with essential nutrients and oxygen. Over time, the blood leaves behind deposits known as plaque, which often sticks to the inside of the arteries. In some cases, this plaque builds up and the arteries eventually begin to narrow, leading to PAD.
Symptoms of PAD
Unfortunately, PAD symptoms can be very painful. Some patients experience discomfort, others experience pain that doesn’t go away in their legs and feet. For men with PAD, it’s also common to experience even more serious conditions like erectile dysfunction.
The most common symptoms are tired or achy legs. The signs can grow slowly causing many people ignore the warning signs, dismissing aches and pains as part of the aging process.
Typically, this pain develops in the legs, hips, thighs, or calves when walking or exercising heavily. The pain is usually intermittent and is caused from one or more of the leg’s arteries narrowing, constricting blood flow to the legs. When you are walking, your legs require more blood and oxygen, and since the restricted arteries can’t supply the demand –the pain comes on more rapidly.
If left without treatment, further symptoms may include:
- Pain and cramps at night
- Burning sensation in leg and feet muscles
- Numbness in the legs while sitting
- Pain when walling
- Dark, bruise-like, colors on your legs and feet
- Painful and persistent sores on your legs and feet
- Leg pain that continues after exercising
- Foot wounds that don’t heal
Identify PAD Risk Factors: Are You at Risk?
While many cases of PAD are hereditary, or caused by circumstances beyond our control, such as age, gender, and ethnicity; there are still important steps that can be taken to lower the risk of PAD.
Your chances of PAD also increase if you are:
- Over the age of 50
- Having poor diet
- Have diabetes
- African American
- Having high blood pressure
People who smoke, and/or have diabetes are especially at risk for PAD. If you have risk factors for PAD, contact your healthcare professional to get screened for PAD, even if you have not noticed any symptoms.
Your risk of coronary heart disease is higher if you have PAD, which means an increased risk of stroke, or heart attack. Additionally, the overall process of narrowing arteries could lead to other serious health issues as well.
If PAD is not treated, it can have devastating consequences, and can result in the need for lower leg amputation. This is because the lack of blood to the lower leg over an extended period of time will cause the leg to slowly die, making the leg susceptible to gangrene, which could in turn become a life threatening condition.
Treatment for PAD
While PAD is a serious condition, the good news is that quality PAD treatment does exist.
The treatment for your PAD is directly related to your medical history, and the severity of your case.
A change in lifestyle is one of the best ways to address PAD. A change in diet and exercise routine can help to reverse the effects of PAD. Since smoking increase your chances of PAD, it is recommended to stop smoking. Walking is the best form of exercise for PAD. Regular exercise can help encourage other arteries in your legs to enlarge, which in turn improves the blood supply to your legs. Better still a healthy lifestyle can reduce many of the contributing factors to PAD including high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
In some cases, in addition to lifestyle changes, medication may be prescribed to help lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, or help control pain that may be preventing you from exercising.
If the blood is completely blocked, you may benefit from a procedure to open the blocked arteries and restore the flow of blood. Stent angioplasty is one of the most common procedures that is used to address blocked arteries. Stent angioplasty is a nonsurgical procedure that involves placing a tiny tube into the artery, which expands and compresses the plaque, improving circulation and restoring the flow of blood. This procedure is fast, virtually painless, and highly effective.
When it comes to addressing PAD, early detection is key to preventing serious additional health problems, and can help to restore your mobility, lower your risk of heart attack, and get you back on the road to health.
At USA Vascular Centers, we provide non-surgical treatments for PAD. We are dedicated to helping our patients maintain their independence and mobility. For more information about PAD, or to find out about non-surgical treatments for PAD, give us a call at 888.773.2193.