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What is Peripheral Artery Disease?

February 19, 2020 | Dr. Mohamed Osman

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Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a circulatory problem where narrowing in the arteries reduce the blood flow to your limbs. This means that your limbs, usually your legs, aren’t receiving enough blood flow. An important component in heart health are the blood vessels that carry blood throughout your body. It’s important to show them the same love you do for your heart.

Peripheral Artery Disease increases a person’s risk for heart attack or stroke as it may be an indication of a more widespread accumulation of plaque in the arteries causing reduced blood flow to your heart or brain. If left untreated, it can worsen over time and even lead to a complete blockage of blood flow causing permanent damage to that part of the body. It can also lead to gangrene (death of tissue) in that part of the body or require amputation.

What are the Most Common Symptom of Peripheral Artery Disease

PAD is most common in those age 50-64. However, those under 50 can also have increased risk for developing PAD. You may be at increased risk if they you any of the following risk factors.

Risk Factors for Peripheral Artery Disease

  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of PAD
  • History of atherosclerosis (hardening of the blood vessels) such as the coronary arteries (blood vessels to the heart), carotid artery (the main blood-carrying vessel from the heart to the brain), and blood vessels of the abdomen or kidneys
  • Obesity

Many people with PAD may have mild or no symptoms and may not even know they have PAD. While other people may have more significant symptoms.

The most common indication of PAD is leg pain when walking also known as claudication. This may feel like muscle pain or cramping in your legs or arms that is triggered by activity but subsides after a few minutes of rest. Calf pain is the most common but the location of the pain depends on the location of the clogged artery. Claudication can vary in severity ranging from mild discomfort to debilitating pain.

Other signs and symptoms of PAD can include:

Other Signs and Symptoms of PAD Peripheral Artery Disease Can Include:

  • Leg pain, tightness, or cramping sensation with walking
  • Leg numbness or weakness
  • Leg or foot feels cold to the touch compared to the opposite side
  • Dry and scaly skin on your leg
  • Sores on your toes, feet, or legs that won’t heal
  • Poor toenail growth or hair loss on your feet or toes
  • Weak or no pulse in your legs or feet

PAD Diagnosis and Treatment

If you are at increased risk for PAD or you have symptoms, there are several tests your doctor may recommend to determine if you have PAD. These may include

  • Physical exam
  • Ankle-brachial index
  • Doppler ultrasound
  • Treadmill test
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiogram (MRA)
  • Arteriogram

If you do have PAD, there are many things you can do to manage your symptoms and stop the progression of blockage throughout your body. Many of the treatments your doctor suggests will likely involve lifestyle changes which can be very effective especially if you are in the early stages of PAD. Some recommended treatments and lifestyle changes include:

  • Quit smoking
  • Heart-healthy eating plan
  • Regular walking and activity
  • Exercise
  • Medications
  • Surgery and other procedures to open blocked blood vessels

Beginning this month, Fisher-Titus Cardiac Rehab will be offering a specially-designed exercise program for those diagnosed with PAD. For more information, call419-660-2600.

Although PAD can be serious, there are lots of things you can do to reduce your risk, prevent PAD, and manage it if you are diagnosed. Learn more about PAD and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your risk for Peripheral Artery Disease.

About Dr. Osman

Mohamed Osman, MD is a Vascular and Endovascular surgeon with Fisher-Titus Heart & Vascular. He is board-certified in Vascular Surgery, General Surgery, and Surgical Critical Care. For more information about Fisher-Titus Heart & Vascular, visit fishertitus.org/heart-and-vascular-services.