Peripheral artery disease (also called peripheral arterial disease) is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs. When you develop peripheral artery disease (PAD), your extremities — usually your legs — don’t receive enough blood flow to keep up with demand. This causes symptoms, most notably leg pain when walking (intermittent claudication). Peripheral artery disease is also likely to be a sign of a more widespread accumulation of fatty deposits in your arteries (atherosclerosis). This condition may be reducing blood flow to your heart and brain, as well as your legs. Often, you can successfully treat peripheral artery disease by quitting tobacco, exercising and eating a healthy diet.
Causes and Risk Factors
The leading cause of peripheral arterial disease is atherosclerosis, a condition that involves the buildup of plaque. Cardiologists have identified a number of risk factors that can contribute to PAD, including tobacco use, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and diabetes. Being over the age of 50, having high cholesterol, and having a personal or family history of stroke are additional risk factors.
While many people with peripheral artery disease have mild or no symptoms, some people have leg pain when walking (intermittent claudication). Intermittent claudication symptoms include muscle pain or cramping in your legs or arms that’s triggered by activity, such as walking, but disappears after a few minutes of rest. The location of the pain depends on the location of the clogged or narrowed artery. Calf pain is the most common location. The severity of intermittent claudication varies widely, from mild discomfort to debilitating pain. Severe intermittent claudication can make it hard for you to walk or do other types of physical activity.
Peripheral artery disease symptoms include:
- Painful cramping in your hip, thigh or calf muscles after activity, such as walking or climbing stairs (intermittent claudication)
- Leg numbness or weakness
- Coldness in your lower leg or foot, especially when compared with the other side
- Sores on your toes, feet or legs that won’t heal
- A change in the color of your legs
- Hair loss or slower hair growth on your feet and legs
- Slower growth of your toenails
- Shiny skin on your legs
- No pulse or a weak pulse in your legs or feet
- Erectile dysfunction in men
Your cardiologist may recommend medications to treat PAD, such as drugs to control cholesterol and blood pressure. Sometimes, surgery may be needed if one limb or an artery has obstructed blood flow. Lifestyle modifications can be helpful for managing PAD, such as quitting smoking and exercising regularly.
At Cardiac Solutions, our cardiologists will help you explore your PAD treatment options to improve your cardiovascular health. Schedule a visit with a cardiologist today by calling (623) 208-5305. Our heart clinics are conveniently located in Glendale, Avondale, Peoria, and Sun City West.