Peripheral artery disease (PAD) affects more than 8.5 million Americans. Most don’t know they have the condition. Are you one of them?
PAD is a common circulatory problem that happens when there’s a narrowing of blood vessels outside your heart, reducing blood flow to your limbs. When this happens, your extremities don’t receive enough blood flow – leading to symptoms like leg pain when walking or being active. PAD is caused by atherosclerosis, or a buildup of plaque on the interior walls of the arteries that pump blood to your arms and legs.
Is PAD dangerous?In one word – yes. Fatty deposits that build up in the inner lining of your arteries can lead to blockages that restrict blood flow to the arteries leading to your stomach, arms, kidneys, legs and feet. Over time, your arteries may continue to narrow or even become blocked, which can lead to tissue death and amputation. And when this type of blockage happens in a carotid artery, it can lead to a stroke. If you have PAD, you likely have a higher risk of death from a heart attack or stroke.
The good news: Although PAD is a potentially life-threatening condition, it can be managed and sometimes reversed with proper care.
Keep Symptoms in MindMany people with PAD have mild or no symptoms. But now that you know it’s dangerous, it’s important to keep an eye out for symptoms, including cramping, fatigue, heaviness, discomfort or pain in the legs of buttocks when you’re active. These are all generally associated with poor leg circulation. Other symptoms of poor kidney circulation are sudden high blood pressure or blood pressure that doesn’t respond to medication. When there’s a severe blockage in arteries leading to the kidneys, it could result in kidney failure. Other symptoms include:
- Numbness or weakness in your legs
- Sores on your legs, feet or toes that aren’t healing properly
- Weak or no pulse in your feet or legs
- Erectile dysfunction in men
- Coldness in your foot or lower leg
- Slower toenail and hair growth on your legs
- Shiny skin on your legs
When to Talk to Your DoctorLeg pain and numbness – or the other symptoms listed above – are not just normal signs of aging. If you’re experiencing any these symptoms, talk to your doctor right away.
Vascular Diagnostic Services, a component of the USA Vascular Center, offers patients a comprehensive vascular screening program for the early detection of vascular issues and disease. All studies are interpreted by USA’s highly experienced vascular surgeons, who are specialists in managing veins and arteries throughout the body. Vascular surgeons do more than just perform procedures – they provide guidance and help you determine if surgery is necessary or if your condition can be successfully managed with medication, exercise or a combination of the two. Call (423) 267-0466 to schedule an appointment.
Great resources from the American Heart Association:
Making Physical Activity a Way of Life
Risk Factors You Can Control – and Those You Can’tWhen it comes to lowering your risk for PAD, these are the factors where you can make a change and improve your health:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Lack of physical activity
- Smoking or use of tobacco products
- Type 2 diabetes – controlling your blood sugar
Risk Factors You Can’t Change
- Age – especially older than 50
- Being male
- Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes
- Women who are through menopause
- Family history of heart disease, including heart attack or stroke
- Family history of high blood pressure, cholesterol or PAD
- Family history of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries
- High levels of homocysteine, a protein that helps build and maintain tissue
If you smoke or have diabetes, you have the highest risk of complications from PAD because these risk factors also cause hindered blood flow.