Peripheral Artery Disease
What is PAD?
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is a buildup of plaque in the walls of arteries which reduces or blocks the flow of blood to your limbs. PAD is most commonly seen in the legs.
Are you at Risk?
Some factors may put you at higher risk for PAD. Some of these risk factors include:
- Being Overweight
- High Blood Pressure
- Avoiding Exercise
- High Cholesterol
- Being Over the Age of 50
- Family History of Cardiovascular Disease
Signs & Symptoms
The most common early symptom is intermittent claudication (IC). IC is discomfort or aching in the calves, thighs, or hips, and may go away with rest.
Critical limb ischemia may be experienced if you have advanced PAD. This is when your legs do not get enough oxygen while resting. This may cause pain in the toes and feet that can be relieved by standing.
In severe peripheral artery disease, you may develop painful sores on your toes or feet. If the circulation in your leg does not improve, these ulcers can start as dry, gray, or black sores, and eventually become dead tissue (called gangrene).
How to Diagnose
Your physician may use one or more test to determine whether you have PAD.
After your physician examines you and they suspect PAD, they may decide to do an Ankle Brachial Index (ABI). This is a simple, noninvasive test. It compares the blood pressure in your arms and legs. By comparing the two, your physician can get a good idea of the level of blood flow to your legs.
Your physician may also decide to do a Ultrasound Doppler Test. This is another noninvasive test that uses sound waves to evaluate blood flow in your legs. With this test it can be determined if a specific artery has plaque buildup.
Your physician may recommend you have an Angiogram also. In this test, a special dye is injected into the arteries and x-rays are taken, the x-rays show any narrowed or blocked arteries. Physicians usually reserve angiography for people with more severe forms of leg artery disease
- Lifestyle Changes: Increased walking and a healthier diet are the treatments for most people. Early treatment can help patients avoid surgery.
- Medication: Your physician may also recommend medication to treat conditions that worsen or complicate leg artery disease. You may also need to take medications that reduce blood clotting to minimize the chances of clots blocking your narrowed arteries.
- Angioplasty, Atherectomy, or Stent
- Bypass Surgery: Bypass surgery creates a detour around a narrowed, or blocked, section of a leg artery. This creates a new path for your blood to flow to your leg tissues and is particularly effective for extensive artery blockages.
What can I do to stay healthy?
Lifestyle changes that help you manage your leg artery disease include:
- Managing diabetes by maintaining healthy blood sugar levels
- Lowering high cholesterol
- Lowering high blood pressure
- Quitting smoking
- Eating foods low in saturated fats and calories
- Maintaining your ideal body weight
- Exercising and walking regularly, for instance walking at least 30 minutes 3 times each week