Inflammation and disease of the sac around the heart.
Peripheral artery and vascular disease is most often due to atherosclerosis, narrowed arteries due to fatty deposits. PAD involves limb pain and can be dangerous if you don’t seek medical care.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) can occur with few symptoms, although most people who develop this condition will experience some pain in their legs when walking. Called claudication, it sets in during physical activity but subsides several minutes after you rest. Calf pain is the most common symptom of PAD, however, you might also notice numbness or weakness in one of your legs, a cold sensation in your leg or foot, color change in your legs, or slower toenail growth.
Additional symptoms of peripheral artery and vascular disease can include erectile dysfunction in men, shiny skin on your legs, sores on your legs, feet, or toes that won’t heal, or hair loss or slower hair growth on the legs or ankles. Sometimes, PAD progresses without treatment to the point that pain in your legs will occur even when resting, called ischemic rest pain.
Peripheral artery disease is typically caused by fatty deposits, called atherosclerosis, which slowly narrow your artery walls. Although this buildup can occur in any artery in your body, PAD typically affects your limbs. Some people develop PAD as a result of other causes including radiation exposure, limb injury, blood vessel inflammation, or unusual anatomy in your muscles or ligaments.
The risk factors associated with peripheral artery and vascular disease are similar to those linked to coronary artery disease. Family history can play a role, but most often the condition occurs as a result of lifestyle choices and other medical conditions. Tobacco use and obesity are significant risk factors for PAD, as well as having diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, or high levels of homocysteine, a protein that aids in maintaining muscle tissue. Individuals over the age of 50 are also at higher risk.
Before developing a treatment plan for peripheral artery and vascular disease, it’s important to understand the severity of your atherosclerosis. This can be evaluated through a physical exam, ultrasound, blood tests, or an ankle-brachial index where the blood pressure in your ankle is compared to that of your arm. Treating PAD often takes a two-pronged approach where pain management and symptom reduction are equally as important as ensuring that your atherosclerosis doesn’t worsen.
Medication is often helpful to reduce your blood pressure, control blood sugar, reduce clotting, or lower cholesterol and can sometimes be sufficient to effectively manage PAD. Supervised exercise programs may also be beneficial, and in some cases, surgery may be required to reduce claudication. Making changes to your lifestyle can also help to prevent peripheral artery and vascular disease as well.