Peripheral arterial disease, often called PAD, is a condition in which your extremities do not receive enough blood flow to keep up with demand. PAD most often occurs in the legs. The lack of blood flow causes many patients to have trouble walking for long periods of time.
What causes peripheral arterial disease?
When plaque–which is made up of fat and cholesterol in the blood–builds up in the arteries, the arteries become clogged or narrowed. This process is known as atherosclerosis. Clogged arteries limit the blood flow to the limbs, depriving the muscles and cells in your limbs of rich, oxygen-filled blood.
What are the symptoms of peripheral arterial disease?
Limited blood flow to the limbs results in the symptom of claudication, or pain and weakness in the legs while walking. It can also result in leg pain when climbing stairs. Numbness may also occur due to narrowed arteries.
While these symptoms can also be related to other problems, the best way to know is to schedule a visit with a provider at Virginia Interventional & Vascular Associates (VIVA).
If PAD is left untreated, arteries can become fully blocked, which can result in gangrene and infection. Extreme cases may even require amputation of the limb.
What are the risk factors for peripheral arterial disease?
Smoking is the primary risk factor for peripheral arterial disease. If you smoke or have a history of smoking, your risk is increased. Other factors, like a lack of exercise, a poor diet, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes can contribute to an increased risk for the disease.
Some risk factors, unfortunately, cannot be avoided. Aging increases your risk for peripheral arterial disease, as arteries have more plaque build-up over the years. A family history of arterial diseases also increases your risk. Other vascular diseases, such as coronary artery disease or heart disease, can also add to your risk profile.
What are the best ways to prevent peripheral arterial disease?
Quitting smoking is a great way to minimize your risk for PAD. Being active and eating a healthy diet are also important, as well as losing weight and lowering your blood pressure. Depending on how far the disease has progressed, these lifestyle changes may help prevent or even reverse the condition.
How do I know if I have peripheral arterial disease?
A simple, painless test by a vascular specialist is used to diagnose the disease and its progression. Tests such as an ankle-brachial index, a CT/MRI angiogram, and catheter angiograms help determine which treatment is best for the patient’s unique needs. Sometimes lifestyle changes (like quitting smoking) are enough to effectively treat the disease. A provider at VIVA will recommend the best course of action based on your test results.
What are the treatment options for peripheral arterial disease?
If the arteries are too full of plaque build-up, where lifestyle changes alone do not correct the disease, there are treatment options available. Medications are available to help lower blood pressure and manage cholesterol. Treatments for peripheral arterial disease include angioplasty, stenting, atherectomy, and surgical bypass. All of these approaches are available to patients at VIVA.
Peripheral arterial disease is a serious condition, but it can be prevented and treated with lifestyle changes, medication, and vascular procedures. If you believe you are suffering from peripheral arterial disease, contact Virginia Interventional and Vascular Associates for a visit at (540) 654-9118.