Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is a common circulatory problem in which your arteries become narrowed by the buildup of arterial plaque, causing reduced blood flow to your extremities. Although PAD can affect the arms, it is most commonly found in the legs. Approximately 8 million people in the US have PAD, including 12-20% of all people over the age of 60.
What are the symptoms and causes of PAD?
Symptoms of PAD include pain or cramping in the legs (especially after walking or climbing stairs), coldness in the legs, feet, or toes, numbness or weakness in the legs, sores or color changes on the legs, and erectile dysfunction in men. However, you can have PAD and display none of these symptoms.
The primary cause of PAD is atherosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries”), the buildup of fatty plaque on the interior walls of the arteries. Risk factors for PAD include smoking, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, aging, and a family history of heart disease or stroke. PAD is serious, because left untreated it can cause critical limb ischemia (open sores that don’t heal, sometimes developing into gangrene and requiring amputation), stroke, and heart attack.
How is Peripheral Arterial Disease diagnosed?
PAD can be detected by your Monmouth County vascular doctor as the result of an examination in which weak or absent pulses are found in your extremities, and also by using the ankle-brachial index, a specialized blood pressure test in which blood pressure in your arm is compared to blood pressure in your ankle. The doctor may also use other non-invasive procedures such as Doppler ultrasound (to analyze actual blood flow to pinpoint blockages or narrowed arteries), specialized blood tests, and angiography.
How is PAD treated?
Treatment of PAD has two goals – to manage symptoms and to halt the progression of atherosclerosis to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. In some cases, this can be accomplished by lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation, weight loss, and regular exercise. In other cases, medications can be used to lower cholesterol levels, lower high blood pressure, control blood sugar, prevent blood clots, and relieve extreme symptoms.
If the PAD has progressed to a point at which even more extensive treatment is needed, the experienced Jersey Shore vein doctors at New Jersey Vein and Laser Center can perform endovascular treatments to treat and repair severely damaged arteries. So if you have a family history of atherosclerosis or heart disease, if you have noticed any of the symptoms discussed earlier, or if you have increased risk factors for developing PAD, you should give Dr. Owano Pennycooke a call today at 732-403-3899 and set up an appointment for a checkup.