Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a widespread circulatory disorder affecting millions worldwide. This condition arises when plaque accumulates in the arteries that transport blood to the arms, legs, and other extremities, leading to decreased blood flow and various associated symptoms. While PAD can sometimes be asymptomatic, it often presents warning signs that should not be ignored.
PAD is a serious health condition that affects approximately 6.5 million people over the age of 40 in the United States alone. Unfortunately, many people are unaware they have PAD until the condition has progressed and caused significant damage. PAD can cause various symptoms, including leg pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, slow wound healing, and skin color or temperature changes. In some cases, PAD can lead to serious complications, such as chronic leg pain, skin ulcers, infections, gangrene, and even limb amputation.
PAD Risk Factors
Understanding the risk factors associated with peripheral artery disease is essential to understand why getting any symptoms checked out is important. Several factors can increase a person’s risk of developing PAD, including smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, a family history of cardiovascular disease, and a sedentary lifestyle. The risk of PAD increases with age, with approximately one in every three people over 50 with diabetes being affected by the condition.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, it’s important to be seen by a healthcare professional:
- Leg pain: Pain or discomfort in the legs during physical activity (such as walking) is a common symptom of PAD. This pain typically goes away with rest and returns when moving again.
- Numbness or tingling: If you have numbness, tingling, or a “pins and needles” feeling in your feet or legs, it could be a sign of poor circulation caused by PAD.
- Weakness or heaviness: Weakness or heaviness in the legs, especially after physical activity, maybe a sign that your muscles aren’t getting enough oxygen-rich blood.
- Slow wound healing: If you have wounds on your feet or legs that are slow to heal, it could be a sign of poor circulation caused by PAD.
- Changes in skin color or temperature: If the skin on your legs or feet appears pale, blue, or discolored, or if it feels colder than usual, it may be a sign of poor circulation.
If you are at risk for PAD or experience any warning signs, taking action and getting checked out by a healthcare professional is vital. Your doctor may recommend a variety of treatments for PAD, including lifestyle changes, medications, and in some cases, surgery or minimally invasive procedures to remove or bypass the blockages in your arteries.
Lifestyle changes are often the first line of defense in managing peripheral artery disease. Your doctor may recommend regular exercise, such as walking or cycling, which can help improve blood flow and reduce symptoms. A healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in saturated fat can also help reduce your risk of PAD. Additionally, quitting smoking is essential in managing PAD, as smoking can worsen the condition and increase the risk of complications.
In addition to lifestyle changes, medications may also be used to manage this condition. Medical treatments for PAD may involve using medications, including blood thinners like aspirin, to reduce the formation of blood clots and lower the risk of heart attack or stroke. Additionally, cholesterol-lowering medications like statins can be prescribed to decrease the risk of PAD-related complications. In some cases, surgery or minimally invasive procedures may be necessary.