By Marc Courtiol
PAD is the most commonly used term for Peripheral Artery Disease. It is a very common problem of the circulatory system that is characterized by a narrowing of the arteries, which reduces the flow of blood to the limbs. With people who have PAD, their extremities (usually the legs) do not receive enough blood flow to keep up with the body’s constant demand.
Often times, people who are diagnosed with PAD also have atherosclerosis, which is an accumulation of fatty deposits in the arteries. Atherosclerosis may reduce the flow of blood to the brain, heart, and legs.
The most common symptom of Peripheral Artery Disease is leg pain when walking, but there are a variety of other symptoms that people may experience.
- Changes in the toenails
- Changes in the color of the legs
- Leg weakness or numbness
- Hair loss on the legs or feet
- Cramping in the thigh, hip, or calf that is quite painful after climbing stairs or walking
- Sores that will not heal on the legs, feet, or toes
- Coldness in the foot or lower leg (this is particularly pronounced in comparison to the other foot or leg)
Advanced stages of Peripheral Artery Disease may cause people to experience pain even whey are resting or lying down. In some cases, it might even cause disruptions to a person’s sleep.
There are a number of factors that contribute to the development of PAD in most people.
- High blood pressure (generally, 140/90 or higher)
- Excessive levels of C-reactive protein
- High cholesterol
- Family history of stroke, heart disease, or PAD
- Advanced age (particularly people who are over the age of 50)
- Excessive levels of homocysteine
When treating Peripheral Artery Disease, two different approaches must be taken. First off, it is important to manage the symptoms that are associated with the disease so that patients can be physically active without experiencing pain. Secondly, atherosclerosis must be reduced in the body to decrease the patient’s risk of having a stroke, heart attack, or other cardiac event.
Some people manage to accomplish both of these by making some significant lifestyle changes to improve their overall health. In some instances, however, patients may also need medication to lower blood pressure or cholesterol, reduce pain, or prevent blood clots.
For more severe cases of PAD, doctors may recommend angioplasty or surgery to better treat the underlying problem. Angioplasty is a procedure that helps to increase arterial blood flow in people who have blockages, and it is typically performed as an outpatient procedure in a hospital. Bypass surgery may also be a treatment option that is suggested by doctors for patients who have advanced PAD.
In addition, it is extremely important that people with PAD participate regularly in an exercise program. Such programs should be supervised by doctors so that patients can be monitored for complications. In some cases, a short course of physical therapy may be recommended to help patients who are experiencing difficulty with movement.