Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) or Peripheral Vascular Disease is a disorder that occurs in the arteries that carry blood to the legs and arms.
The main cause of PAD is atherosclerosis. The smooth lining in healthy arteries helps proper blood flow and prevents clotting of blood. When plaque, which is made of excessive fat, cholesterol and other substances floating through the bloodstream gradually builds up in the arterial walls, the arteries get narrowed and blocked. Blood does not flow sufficiently to nourish the organs and tissues and this leads to PAD. The plaque buildup occurs gradually and PAD is a progressive disease.
Plaque deposits are generally found to be hard on the outside and soft on the inside. The hard surface may crack thereby exposing the soft inside. When this happens, platelets come to the area, and blood clots form around the plaque. The artery becomes narrower.
The artery may become completely blocked by plaque or a blood clot that lodges in a narrowed artery. If this occurs, the tissue below the blockage is permanently damaged and may die (gangrene) due to lack of blood flow. Sometimes this can lead to amputation of the leg or foot.
Since our circulatory system is interconnected, the effects of PAD extend beyond the affected limb. Studies show that a PAD patient has several times more risk of having a heart attack, stroke, coronary artery disease, or problems with the renal arteries than a person without any such condition. Also, a person with heart disease has over 30% chance of having peripheral artery disease in the limb.
The risk factors for the two diseases are also known to be similar since similar changes in arteries in arms and legs are caused by the two diseases.
Risk factors of PAD :
Following are few of the risk factors that may lead to Peripheral Arterial Disease
Symptoms of PAD
Claudication, a type of muscle pain due to improper blood flow to the legs is the predominant symptom. Symptoms may also occur in the form of burning sensation or numbness, weakness, or discoloration of legs. Skin on legs might appear shinier than before and pulse in your feet may be fainter.
Your hands may feel colder or numb and fingers may look pale. Sores appear on your arms and hands that do not seem to heal easily.
Human body can grow blood vessels around blockages. This is considered dangerous when severe blockages would have already occurred and you may not realize it as no pain would be felt. Asymptomatic PAD is commonly found in young patients.
Your doctor will check your medical history and assess your condition based on physical examination. Certain tests will be necessary for the doctor to know the severity of the condition and proper diagnosis. They may include Ankle Brachial Index – This is an initial diagnostic test and involves taking the blood pressure reading of the ankle and comparing with your arm.
Angiogram (CT, MRI) can help locate the plaque buildup in the arteries and later assess the treatment options.
Treatment of PAD :
Medical treatment includes procedures like
The following practices can help you manage the related symptoms and prevent the condition from deteriorating.
Maintain blood pressure
Control cholesterol level
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