Peripheral Arterial Disease or P.A.D. is a disease in which plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood to your head, organs, and limbs. Excessive plaque build-up in the body’s arteries is known atherosclerosis. Over time, this plaque can harden and narrow the arteries. This impedes the flow of blood to your organs and other parts of your body. It’s just like having gunk on the inside of your kitchen pipes. The water has to go through a smaller channel.
P.A.D. usually affects the arteries in the legs, but it also can affect the arteries that carry blood from your heart to your head, arms, kidneys, and stomach.
Signs and Symptoms
Most people are not aware they have P.A.D until their arteries are already significantly blocked unfortunately. Symptoms of P.A.D. can include the following:
- Leg pain or cramping that occurs while walking
- Leg pain or cramping that occurs while lying down
- Leg numbness or weakness
- Cold legs or feet
- Sores that won’t heal on toes, feet, or legs
- A change in leg color
- Loss of hair on the feet and legs
- Changes in toenails
If you have any of these symptoms, you should schedule a doctor’s visit immediately. Schedule an appointment with a foot and ankle surgeon or vascular surgeon and get an examination. Peripheral artery disease, if not addressed and treated, can lead to debilitating consequences.
Risk Factors of P.A.D.
So, how do you know if you are at risk for P.A.D.? Good question! Here are some common risk factors…
- Being over age 50
- Smoking (currently or previously)
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Personal or family history of P.A.D., heart disease, heart attack, or stroke
- Sedentary lifestyle
Diagnosis of P.A.D.
To diagnose P.A.D., a comprehensive medical history is needed as well as a lower extremity physical examination that includes evaluation of pulses, skin condition, and foot deformities. Additionally, several non-invasive tests may be used for assessment such as the ankle-brachial index (ABI). This is a simple test in which blood pressure is measured and compared at the arm and ankle levels. An abnormal ABI is a reliable indicator of underlying P.A.D.
General Treatment of P.A.D.
Treatment for P.A.D. involves lifestyle changes, medication and, in some cases, surgery.
- Lifestyle changes. These can include smoking cessation, regular exercise, and eating a heart-healthy diet.
- Medications. Medicines may be used to improve blood flow, help prevent blood clots, or to control blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels.
- Surgery. In some patients, small incision (endovascular) procedures or open (bypass) surgery of the leg are needed to improve blood circulation.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog which will discuss how P.A.D. specifically affects your feet.
If you or a loved one are looking for a podiatrist in the Sarasota-Bradenton area or are experiencing heel problems, Sarasota or Bradenton is the place to be! Please schedule an appointment with Dr. Lasday, Dr. Zdancewicz, Dr. Goecker, or Dr. Sotelo for a thorough and professional evaluation, either in our Bradenton Podiatry office at (941) 753-9599 or our Sarasota Podiatry office at (941) 366-2627.
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