Arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood to various different body parts. Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), also known as Peripheral Vascular Disease(PVD) is a blood circulation disorder that arises due to narrowed or blocked arteries.
In most cases, plaque formation is reported on the walls of certain arteries which eventually leads to atherosclerosis. These damaged arteries restrict blood flow and limit oxygen supply to the limbs, primarily the legs.
The most common risk factors of PAD include obesity and related co-morbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol levels. Also, patients who consume tobacco or smoke cigarettes have a higher chance of developing PAD.
Peripheral Artery Disease is known to be a genetic disorder. Patients who have a family history of PAD, heart disease, or stroke are at a significantly higher risk than their counterparts. Age is another common cause of PAD and affects people who are over 50 years of age.
People who have a sedentary lifestyle that is characterized by a lack of physical activity are likely to complain of irregular blood circulation in the legs and feet. High levels of homocysteine, the protein component that aids in building and maintaining tissues can also cause restricted blood flow in the arteries.
Asymptomatic PAD where patients do not experience any pain or discomfort is common in younger patients. The most common sign of PAD is leg pain, especially while walking. This discomfort can be in the form of cramps or muscle pain in the calf, buttocks, thighs or feet.
Leg pain is usually triggered by some activity such as walking or exercising. The location of this pain depends upon the location of the narrowed artery. This pain is known to disappear within a few minutes of rest and re-appear when the activity is performed again.
In extreme cases, patients may find it difficult to move around and perform any physical activity. Other symptoms of PAD include leg numbness and weakness, coldness in the lower leg or feet, slower growth of toenails, shiny skin surface open sores, and skin discoloration in the affected area.
If you experience leg pain, numbness or any of the other symptoms mentioned above, you must never ignore them and consult an interventional radiologist for a thorough medical check-up and diagnosis.
The doctor will begin with a physical examination of the damaged area and use a stethoscope to check for weakness or absent pulse and whooshing sounds over the arteries. He/she will also compare blood presume in your arms with that in the ankle.
Additionally, a doppler ultrasound scan is conducted to check for blood flow and identify narrowed arteries. In most cases, the doctor will also request an angiography where a coloured dye is injected into the blood vessels to check for blocked arteries.