Also known as peripheral artery stenosis, peripheral artery disease is a vascular condition in which the blood flow to the limbs is drastically reduced. Over time, due to the buildup of fatty plaque deposits, and calcium, the peripheral arteries begin to narrow, and in more severe cases, they will clog almost completely.
Generally, the reduced blood flow of the peripheral arteries effects the limbs, mainly the legs. This causes moderate to severe leg pain, especially while walking, jogging, or running.
Peripheral artery disease is an extremely dangerous condition, as it may be a sign of a much greater, more widespread, buildup of plaque within all the arteries – known as atherosclerosis. Often those who experience peripheral artery disease, may also be suffering from coronary artery disease, which limits blood flow to the heart, as well as the brain.
Often times, patients suffering from PAD will exhibit little to no symptoms at all, however leg pain while walking, known as Claudication, is fairly common.
Claudication will generally include muscle pain and cramping, brought on by walking and other activities. Depending upon the specific location of the narrowing arteries, the pain will be concentrated in different areas. However, it is most commonly associated with the calf muscle region.
In addition to leg pain and cramping, other symptoms of peripheral artery disease include:
- Pain & Cramping in the Hips
- Numbness & Weakness in the Limbs
- Legs & Feet will often be cold to the touch.
- Sores on the feet and toes.
- Loss of Leg Hair
- Erectile Dysfunction in Men
- Weak Pulse in the Feet or Legs
And much more.
Risk Factors of Peripheral Artery Disease
- Smoking: Vastly reduces blood flow.
- High Cholesterol
- High Blood Pressure
- Old Age: Men over 50 are far more susceptible to PAD.
- Family History of Heart Disease
- Damage or Inflammation of the Blood Vessels
As a result of these common risk factors, as well as overall poor cardiovascular health, individuals are far more likely to suffer from atherosclerosis, or the buildup of fatty plaque deposits along the arterial walls, causing reduced blood flow. While atherosclerosis mainly focuses on the blood vessels, to and from the heart, it can cause plaque buildups in the peripheral arteries, throughout the body as well.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Generally, those who suffer from these symptoms, especially the pain and cramping when walking, are very likely to suffer from peripheral artery disease. In order to confirm this diagnosis, as well as to determine the extent to which your peripheral arteries are narrowed (clogged), or the location where the clog exits, it is important to visit a cardiologist to perform cardiovascular imaging & diagnostic testing, such as:
- MRA or Magnetic Resonance Angiography
- Peripheral Angiogram
- CT Scan
Generally in order to treat as well as prevent this stenosis of the peripheral arteries in the first place, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, this includes:
- Quitting Smoking
- Limiting Alcohol Consumption
- Those with diabetes should keep their blood sugar in a healthy range.
- Regular Exercise
- Eat Healthier Foods (low in saturated fats) & Maintain a Healthy Weight Range
- Lower your cholesterol & blood pressure – through both medication & healthy lifestyle.
In more severe cases, you might require angioplasty or some surgical measures, including bypass surgery, thrombolytic therapy.