Peripheral artery disease is a medical condition in which narrowed arteries reduce the flow of blood to both the arms and the legs. The arms or legs, most commonly the legs, don’t receive enough blood flow to keep up with the demand. This may result in leg pain while walking, in addition to other symptoms. Normally, people diagnosed with this medical condition have a buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries. Modern Vascular Albuquerque offers a variety of treatment options for those suffering from PAD.
Causes & Symptoms
PAD is caused commonly by a buildup of fatty deposits that contain cholesterol on the walls of the arteries. This is a process that is known as atherosclerosis. It causes a reduction in blood flow through the arteries. Atherosclerosis is a condition that affects the arteries throughout the entire body. It can lead to PAD if it occurs in the arteries that supply blood to the limbs.
Other causes of PAD, though not as common, include:
- Exposure to radiation
- Injury to the arms or legs
- Inflammation of the blood vessels
- Changes in the ligaments or muscles
Many people that have PAD experience mild symptoms, or no symptoms at all. Many people do have leg pain while walking. This is also known as claudication. Symptoms of claudication include cramping or muscle pain in the legs or arms that start during exercise and stop when resting. The pain is typically felt in the calf muscles and can range from mild to severe. Leg pain that is severe can make it difficult to walk or do various types of physical activity.
Other symptoms of PAD may include:
- Shiny skin on the legs
- Leg weakness or numbness
- Coldness in the lower foot or leg
- Weak pulse or no pulse in the legs or feet
- Painful cramping in one or both hips, thighs, or calf muscles following certain physical activity
- Changes in skin color on the legs
- Sores on the feet, toes, or legs that fail to heal
- Erectile dysfunction
- Hair loss or slower hair growth on the legs
Diagnosis & Treatment
In order for your doctor to properly diagnose PAD, he or she will need to examine you. You will also be asked a variety of questions regarding your medical history and symptoms. If you have PAD, the pulse in the area affected may be missing or weak.
There are also various tests that are conducted to diagnose PAD including:
- Blood tests- Different blood tests may be given to check for conditions related to PAD, including high triglycerides, diabetes, and high cholesterol
- Ankle-brachial index- This is a test commonly used to diagnose PAD and compares the blood pressure in your ankle with the blood pressure in your arm.
- Ultrasound of the feet or legs- This test uses sound waves to see how blood travels through the blood vessels.
- Angiography- This is a test that uses X-rays, MRI scans, or CT scans to check for blockages in the arteries.
The goal of treatment is to help manage symptoms including leg pain, so exercise is not painful. Treatment also aims to improve the health of your arteries and reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack. Treatments for PAD include making changes in your lifestyle and sometimes may include taking medications prescribed by your doctor.
Medications may include:
- Cholesterol drugs- These drugs can help lower bad cholesterol and reduce the buildup of plaque in your arteries.
- Blood pressure drugs- These drugs can slow the flow of blood since uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause stiff and hard arteries.
- Medication to control blood sugar levels- If you have diabetes, it is essential that you control your blood sugar levels.
- Medications for leg pain and to prevent blood clots