Peripheral Artery Diseases or PAD is a disorder that affects the arteries. Similar to Coronary Artery Disease, the blood vessels that supply blood to the different parts of the body get narrow due to build-up.
However, in this case, the blood that is pumped from the heart towards the limbs through arteries are affected. This usually cuts the blood supply or decreases to legs, hands, stomach, the head among others.
When the arteries get narrow, and there is build-up in them, it increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Due to narrow arteries, the limbs do not receive enough oxygenated blood, and as a result, people develop pain in their limbs. Over the course of time, it can also develop gangrene in the limbs and must be amputated.
Causes and risks
As mentioned above, Peripheral Artery Disease is caused due to fatty deposits around the blood vessels and artery walls, which reduces the blood flow to the limbs.
People who are aged above 50 years and are suffering from Type 2 Diabetes are at a higher risk of developing Peripheral Artery Disease.
Some other risk factors are:
- High cholesterol
- High Blood Pressure
- Excessive drinking
- People with risk of developing atherosclerosis (build-up of plaque in artery walls)
- Family history of artery or heart diseases
- Inactive lifestyle
- People who’ve had a heart attack or stroke
Signs and symptoms
While this is a common disease in people with poor lifestyle and those who are at a higher risk of developing heart diseases, most patients and doctors fail to recognize its signs due to its subtlety. Most of its signs and symptoms are felt in the lower part of the legs. Some of its common signs are:
- Tingling sensation
- Prickling sensation
- Pain or cramping in legs due to poor supply of blood
- Slow or no healing of wounds in legs
- Slower hair growth on legs and hands
- Hair loss
- Cold temperatures on the lower part of the feet
- Sore toes
- No or a weak pulse in legs
- Erectile dysfunction
People suffering from Peripheral Artery Disease are at a higher risk of developing complications like Critical Limb Ischemia. In this, when there is a high build-up of plaque in the arteries and a short supply of blood to limbs, wounds, and cuts take time to heal.
In some cases, the wounds on the legs may not heal and develop into an infection. In extreme cases, amputation is required.
People with PAD are also at a high risk of developing a heart attack or stroke.
When to see a doctor?
Most people brush of leg pain to be a natural occurrence of old age or other factors. However, a subtle symptom like that can potentially be a serious disease like PAD. So, it is very important that you check with a doctor even when you face small issues.
We recommend checking with a doctor if you notice any of the above signs in your body. It might not be PAD, but there’s no harm in checking with an expert.
As for people who are aged above 50 years and are having diabetes and high blood pressure, we recommend checking with a doctor even if you do not have any signs of PAD.
One of the most common ways to diagnose Peripheral Artery Disease is to check the blood pressure in your arm and compare it to the blood pressure in your ankle.
If the blood pressure in the ankle area is lower than that at the arm, you may have PAD.
In the circumstance when it is difficult to diagnose or confirm PAD through this technique, which is also known as Ankle-Brachial Index, your doctor may suggest other tests like angiography and Doppler ultrasound tests.
Treatment/Prevention for Peripheral Artery Disease
In most cases, your doctor may prescribe you some medication, or suggest lifestyle changes, or both.
Following that will reduce your chances of developing heart disease or a heart attack.
Some of the things which you can do to reduce your risk of developing PAD are:
- Maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle
- Quit smoking
- Have balanced diet
- Reduce bodyweight and cholesterol levels
- Reduce blood pressure levels by consuming or cutting down on saturated fats and sodium
- Use blood thinners for better flow of blood through narrow arteries (ON doctor prescription only)
With a little bit of awareness and determination to give up bad habits and inculcate healthy living, you can easily reduce the risk of developing Peripheral Artery Disease or its complications.
PAD or not, any health scare or subtle signs must always be checked with an expert. For more information or to consult top doctors near you, contact RedHeal.