Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition in which the arteries that carry blood to the legs and feet become narrowed or blocked. This can reduce the flow of blood to the legs and feet, causing pain and other symptoms.
PAD is caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries. Plaque is made up of cholesterol, fat, calcium, and other substances. Over time, plaque can build up and narrow the arteries, making it difficult for blood to flow to the legs and feet.
PAD is a common condition, affecting more than 8 million people in the United States. It is more common in older adults, people with diabetes, and people who smoke.
Symptoms of PAD
The most common symptom of PAD is pain in the legs or feet. This pain is often called intermittent claudication. It occurs when the muscles in the legs don’t get enough blood during exercise. The pain usually goes away when you rest.
Other symptoms of PAD include:
- Numbness or weakness in the legs or feet
- Coolness in the legs or feet
- Leg sores that don’t heal
- Hair loss on the legs or feet
- Slow growth of toenails
Diagnosis of PAD
PAD can be diagnosed with a number of tests, including:
- Physical exam: Your doctor will listen to your arteries for any unusual sounds, such as a bruit. A bruit is a swishing sound that can be caused by narrowed or blocked arteries.
- Ankle-brachial index (ABI): An ABI test compares the blood pressure in your ankle to the blood pressure in your arm. A low ABI may indicate PAD.
- Duplex ultrasound: A duplex ultrasound is an imaging test that can be used to visualize the arteries in your legs and feet and to measure blood flow.
Treatment of PAD
The treatment of PAD depends on the severity of the condition and the presence of other medical conditions. Some common treatments for PAD include:
- Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet, can help to improve blood flow and reduce the risk of complications.
- Medications: Medications, such as statins and blood thinners, can also be used to improve blood flow and reduce the risk of complications.
- Surgery: Surgery may be an option for people with severe PAD that does not respond to medication. Some common surgical procedures for PAD include angioplasty and stenting, and bypass surgery.
Prognosis for PAD
The prognosis for PAD varies depending on the severity of the condition and the presence of other medical conditions. However, with early diagnosis and treatment, most people with PAD can live long and productive lives.
What can you do?
If you have any concerns about your risk of PAD, talk to your doctor. They can perform the necessary tests to diagnose PAD and recommend the best course of treatment.
There are also a number of things you can do to reduce your risk of developing PAD, including:
- Quitting smoking
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a healthy diet
- Managing your blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes
By making healthy lifestyle choices and following your doctor’s recommendations, you can reduce your risk of PAD and live a long and healthy life.