Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a condition that occurs when there is a narrowing or blockage of blood vessels. Most commonly, blockages are found in the legs.
When there is a build-up of fatty plaque in the arteries, the body struggles to carry blood from the heart to the lower extremities. This can cause leg pain and a multitude of complications.
If you are concerned about developing PAD, it is important to learn about the condition, what causes it, and how best to prevent it.
Peripheral Artery Disease: Risk Factors
Learning about risk factors is key to PAD prevention. Some of these factors are not fully in your control, while some can be avoided with proper care.
- Smoking cigarettes/cigars
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Atherosclerosis (fatty plaque in the arteries)
- Being above 60 years old
- Family history of PAD
- Unhealthy eating
- Lacking physical activity
- Chronic kidney disease
- Being of African American descent
Prevention of PAD
More than 6 million people in the US over the age of 40 have PAD. While some risk factors are unavoidable (age and race), maintaining a healthy lifestyle can have a major impact on developing PAD. Some examples of how you can combat the onset of peripheral artery disease are:
- Avoid all tobacco products, especially smoking. Tobacco increases the risk of PAD and will also make the symptoms associated with it worse.
- Control your blood pressure and cholesterol with a healthy, balanced diet. Medications can also help.
- Be physically active, exercise regularly, and avoid a sedentary lifestyle.
- Aim to maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a major risk factor for PAD.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of peripheral artery disease aren’t always present. Even the most common symptom (leg pain) is absent in 40% of people. While the signs of PAD may not always be present, it is important to know what to look for.
- Leg pain during any physical activity
- Aches or cramps during walking in the buttock, thigh, calf, or hip.
- Muscle atrophy (weakness)
- Hair loss
- Skin that feels abnormally cold
- Decreased pulse in the feet
- Sores or ulcers in the legs or feet
- Numb toes
Peripheral Arterial Disease Treatments
If changes in lifestyle, medication, and diet aren’t helpful to your PAD, a doctor may recommend different procedures depending on the severity. These procedures are meant to restore circulation and reduce further complications.
Here are some common peripheral arterial disease treatments:
- Laser Atherectomy: This procedure is designed to clear your arteries by shaving off plaque from the area. It is a minimally-invasive treatment that is precise and avoids damaging surrounding tissue. During the procedure, a fiber-optic catheter connected to a laser is inserted directly into the artery. In addition, laser atherectomy has a very high success rate.
- Balloon Angioplasty: This treatment consists of sticking a thin catheter with a small balloon on the tip into the femoral artery. When the blockage is found, the balloon inflates. This helps to restore blood flow to the area.
- Bypass (Lower Extremity Bypass): A bypass changes the route of the blood flow. By using a synthetic graft inside the artery, this procedure can create a detour around the blockage. A Bypass is a bit riskier than the other options, and it may cause you to stay in the hospital for several days. Recovery time can be up to 2 weeks.
- Endarterectomy: This is used if there is a blood clot in the femoral artery. A small incision (2 to 4 inches) is made near the groin. Then, the artery is clamped above and below the blockage in order to stop blood flow in the area. The femoral artery is then cut open so the plaque can be removed.
South Valley Vascular Can Help
Are you struggling with PAD? Our team of trained specialists can help. Call for an appointment today in one of our locations:
Visalia: (559) 625-4118
Hanford: (559) 825-6204
Porterville: (559) 788-1022
Fresno: (559) 746-9605
Or, feel free to request a consultation online.