Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) occurs when plaque slows blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. Plaque is made up mainly of cholesterol, calcium, fibrin, and fatty substances. It causes the arteries to harden, a condition known as Atherosclerosis. Because the plaque reduces blood flow to vital organs and limbs, they cannot keep up with the body’s demands.
PAD is a common disease among Americans. It most often affects the legs of smokers, diabetics, and people over 50. It also affects those with an inactive lifestyle, those with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and those with a history of vascular disease in their family.
Symptoms of PAD include leg or hip cramping when active, coldness or numbness of the legs and feet, and burning or aching in the feet or toes when inactive. Loss of hair on the legs, color change in the skin, and pain at night when sleeping are also common. PAD can also affect the stomach, arms, and head.
PAD usually goes untreated because people mistake it for a consequence of aging, or because healthcare professionals do not diagnose it. If left untreated, PAD could result in serious and potentially life threatening consequences.
Since plaque is blocking the blood from flowing as it should, a blood clot can form on the plaque’s surface, or a piece of the plaque can break off and stop the flow completely, resulting in a heart attack or stroke. Arteries also bring blood away from the heart to the arms and legs, so if PAD goes untreated long enough, gangrene can set in, leading to amputation.
PAD can easily be diagnosed in the office with a bedside test called an Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI), which uses ultrasound and blood pressure cuffs to evaluate the circulation in your arms and legs. If this test is abnormal we may order further imaging tests such as Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) or Computed Tomography (CT) to determine the extent of your problem and help us plan your treatment.
Do you have risk factors for Peripheral Arterial Disease or Atherosclerosis? Contact us or schedule a visit. We can diagnose and treat your PAD before it becomes worse.