Your arteries carry oxygen-rich blood throughout your body, nourishing your muscles, bones, and nerves. If plaque builds up in your arteries, this can cause peripheral artery disease (PAD), which is a narrowing or blockage of your arteries. More than 6.5 million American adults have PAD, which can reduce your circulation and lead to a wide range of health problems. 

In this blog, Ashish Pal, MD, of Vein & Cardiovascular Center in Orlando, Sebring, and Davenport, Florida, discusses the signs and potential causes of PAD.

All about PAD

Your peripheral arteries carry blood away from your heart and deliver oxygen and nutrients to your head and brain, as well as your feet, legs, hands, arms, and abdominal organs. Unfortunately, your arteries can start to clog up if excess cholesterol and other fats accumulate in your arteries and form into plaque. 

The resulting condition is called PAD, and its main symptom is a reduction in circulation. However, if you develop PAD, you could also develop a number of health problems, including the following:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Gangrene
  • Amputation

Your risk of developing PAD is higher if you:

  • Smoke
  • Have high cholesterol
  • Have diabetes
  • Have hypertension
  • Are obese (BMI over 30

Your risk of developing PAD also increases with age and if you have a family history of the disease.

Recognizing PAD

PAD can be sneaky. Not only are symptoms rare or mild in the early stages of the disease, but they can mimic the symptoms of other health issues. Many people have PAD but brush off their symptoms as a sign of a different health problem. Some of the symptoms of PAD include the following:

  • Pain while walking or exercising
  • Pain in your calf muscles
  • Weakness or numbness in your legs or feet
  • Coldness in one leg
  • Bluish or shiny skin
  • Less hair on your legs
  • Toenails that are discolored or slow-growing
  • Weak pulse in your legs
  • Slow-healing wounds on your legs or feet

PAD typically affects the circulation in your lower body, so you might notice changes in the appearance or feel of your legs and feet. Furthermore, men with PAD may have trouble getting or keeping an erection.

Screening recommendations for PAD

Whether or not you have symptoms, you should get screened for PAD starting at age 70. Additionally, you should get screenings starting at age 50 if you have diabetes, use tobacco, or have a family history of the disease.

Screenings are simple, noninvasive, painless, and, most importantly, can save your life. First, we’ll perform a thorough physical examination and look for changes in your skin and other signs of PAD.

Next, we’ll check and compare the blood pressure in your legs and feet with the readings from your arm. If they’re the same, it’s unlikely you have PAD. However, if your blood pressure is lower in your legs, this is an indication that you may have PAD. 

If it appears that you have PAD, we’ll perform other tests, such as ultrasound, to examine the blood vessels in your legs. If we confirm that you have PAD, we’ll create a personalized treatment plan to open your arteries, improve your circulation, and enhance your overall health. 

If you need a PAD screening or are looking for expert cardiovascular care, book an appointment online or over the phone with Vein & Cardiovascular Center today.

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