Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is the abnormal narrowing of vessels carrying oxygen and nutrients (arteries) other than those going to your heart and brain. As the human body contains many vessels fitting this definition, there are multiple subcategories of this condition. The article you are about to read focuses primarily on lower extremity artery disease (LEAD).
More than 50 percent of individuals with this disease do not show any symptoms. The most classical symptom, though, is claudication, which is basically the pain, aches or cramps that arise after physical activity. According to the portion of the artery involved, location of this pain varies.
Other signs might include:
- Muscle atrophy (weakness)
- Hair loss or slower hair growth on the extremity
- Smooth, shiny, cool skin
- Decreased or absent pulses in the feet
- Sores or ulcers that don’t heal
- Erectile dysfunction in men
- Smoking (highest risk of PAD development)
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Age above 50
If an individual has sign or symptoms it is recommended to see:
- Emergency Room
- General Practitioner
- Cardiology Specialist
- Cardiovascular Surgeon
- Neurology (as PAD might lead to stroke)
- Medical history
- Physical examination (especially ankle brachial index)
- Blood tests (especially for checking common causes)
- Imaging test: ultrasound, magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), and computed tomographic (CT) angiography.
- Risk factor modification
- Smoking cessation
- Glycemic control
- Blood pressure monitoring
- Healthy eating
- Losing weight
- Regular exercise (following a supervised exercise program is specifically recommended)
- Medication upon your doctor’s recommendation
- Percutaneous or surgical revascularization upon your doctor’s recommendation
What causes PAD?
Although countless factors might lead to PAD, the most common underlying cause is named as “atherosclerosis”, which is basically the accumulation of fatty particles and inflammation built-up in the walls of your vessels.
Who is at a greater risk?
In addition to the factors under “common causes“, familial or personal history of heart attack, stroke or relevant diseases increases the risk for developing this disease.
- 2016 AHA/ACC Guideline on the Management of Patients With Lower Extremity Peripheral Artery Disease
- https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/PAD.htm (Date of access: 21.02.2022)
- https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peripheral-artery-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20350557 (Date of access: 21.02.2022)