When the arteries that provide blood to your legs, abdomen, and arms become restricted, limiting blood flow, you have peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Plaque, a fatty material, builds up inside these arteries and causes the narrowing.
Patients with PAD (also known as PAD or PVA) often experience a symptom known as claudication, which manifests as pain or discomfort during walking. The decreased blood supply may harm the skin, muscles, and other tissues. Complete artery blockage due to blood clots or other issues might result in amputation in extreme circumstances. These results are entirely avoidable with treatment.
Causes of Peripheral Artery Disease
When plaque builds up inside the arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis occurs. Factors that increase the probability of developing the peripheral vascular disease are:
- Diabetes mellitus
- High levels of cholesterol or blood pressure
- Inactive lifestyle
- Kidney failure
- Male sex
- History of vascular disease in the family
What Are the Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease?
Painful muscle cramping in the hips, thighs, or calves while walking, climbing stairs, or exercising is the hallmark of peripheral artery disease in the lower extremities.
While it may take a few minutes for the discomfort of PAD to subside once you stops exercising, it usually does. Muscles that are actively being used require an increase in blood flow. Muscles at rest need less oxygen.
If plaque accumulation restricts blood flow, insufficiently oxygenated blood reaches working muscles during activity. Muscles cramp up (a phenomenon known as intermittent claudication) when they aren't getting enough blood to fulfill the body's increased demand, which occurs during exercise.
It's common for people to either have no idea they have PAD or to attribute their symptoms to something else.
Other Symptoms of PAD
- Continual leg pain even after you stop exercising
- Problems with wound healing in the feet or toes
- Irreversible tissue death (sometimes known as gangrene)
- Distinctly lower body temperature in one leg or foot relative to the other or the rest of the body
- Poor growth of toenails or leg hair
- Erectile dysfunction, especially in diabetic men
Diagnosis of Peripheral Artery Disease
A physical examination is an initial step in diagnosing peripheral artery disease. We'll have a conversation about how your symptoms and routine affect you. We may also want to measure your triglycerides, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.
If your doctor is concerned about the circulation in your limbs, they may recommend imaging testing. You can have tests done in the comfort of your doctor's office or at our premier vascular diagnostic facilities. Potential areas of inquiry:
- Ankle-brachial index: The ankle-brachial index is a measurement that assesses how your blood pressure in the arms and legs compares to each other.
- CT Angiography (CTA): Optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) uses a contrast substance (dye) and a series of X-rays to create detailed cross-sectional images of the arteries.
- Duplex ultrasound: Displays the artery on an ultrasound image and utilizes blood flow measurements to identify a possible obstruction.
- MR angiography (MRA): Cross-sections of your arteries are displayed using a strong magnetic field rather than X-rays.
- Peripheral angiogram: Angiogram of the Peripheral Arteries The minimally invasive test employs a catheter-mounted camera to provide clinicians with a clear picture of any obstructions (a long, narrow tube inserted into the artery).
Prevention of Peripheral Artery Disease
Making healthy lifestyle decisions is the first line of defense in the fight against PAD. Quitting smoking will have the most positive impact. Do it right away, or don't begin at all. Which means:
- Regular workout: Maintain a daily exercise routine, aiming for 30 minutes on most days of the week, to begin with. If it has been a while since you last worked out, you should consult your doctor before starting an exercise routine.
- Healthy eating: Eat healthily by following a tried-and-true plan, such as the DASH diet, or by consulting your doctor for guidance.
- Stress control: Limiting stress requires mindful day-to-day scheduling. You can calm your mind and body with meditation, yoga, and regular rest.
- Manage health conditions: High blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol are all risk factors for PAD and can be treated or prevented with proper management.
Remember that the signs of PAD, especially in their early stages, can be difficult to spot. Regular checkups can aid in the early detection and treatment of PAD, reducing the severity of its symptoms and preventing its more severe complications.