Your coronary arteries understandably get a lot of attention when it comes to keeping your vessels clear of fatty deposits that may disrupt vital blood flow to your heart. Did you know, though, that your arms and legs also require a healthy, strong arterial blood flow for the nourishment that your skin, muscles, bones, and tendons need to function?
The peripheral arteries are those that supply fresh, oxygenated blood to areas away from your heart, including your extremities, stomach, and head. Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) causes narrowing of these arteries and reduces the amount of blood flowing to these regions. This can cause significant damage to vital tissues that’s sometimes severe enough to require limb amputation.
We have extensive expertise in diagnosing and treating PAD here at Vascular Access Centers and encourage residents of Memphis and its surrounding communities to learn more about PAD — before surgical treatment becomes necessary.
Here are three interesting facts you may not know about PAD:
1. PAD symptoms can be tricky to identify
You may not notice any symptoms initially, but as PAD worsens, you often feel it first in your legs. It can cause an array of confusing symptoms that are often mistaken for other issues, such as diabetic nerve problems (neuropathy) or deconditioning due to lack of exercise.
Symptoms of PAD affecting the arteries in your legs can include:
- Painful cramping in the hips, thighs, or calves with walking and other activity
- Sores that don’t heal or are slow to heal on your legs and/or feet
- Slow hair growth on your legs
- Shiny or discolored skin on your legs and/or feet
- Numbness, tingling, and burning pain in your lower legs and feet that’s often mistaken for diabetic nerve damage (neuropathy)
- Noticeable and persistent coolness to touch in your lower legs and feet
- Constant pain in your legs as the disease progresses
PAD can also cause your toenails to grow more slowly than usual, and men may develop problems with erectile dysfunction.
2. PAD probably has something to say about your heart health
If PAD isn’t about your heart, it’s not urgent — right? Wrong.
Although it technically affects arteries not directly connected to your heart, the same fatty deposits (namely cholesterol and triglycerides) noted with PAD are likely present in your coronary arteries as well. And this greatly increases your risk of heart attack.
3. PAD is more common than you might think
About 8.5 million people in the United States know they have PAD. But because the symptoms of early PAD are often subtle or mistaken for other problems, it’s possible many men and women don’t realize they have this serious condition.
Your risk of developing PAD increases if you:
- Have diabetes, high blood pressure, or elevated cholesterol
- Are overweight
- Have a family history of PAD, heart disease, or stroke
- Are over age 50
If we catch it early, treating PAD is often as simple as adopting a healthy diet, increasing your physical activity, and losing weight. We might also recommend medication to help lower your “bad” cholesterol.
Even advanced PAD responds well to treatment but often requires the same type of first line treatment option as for blocked coronary arteries, such as arterial stenting or angioplasty. When PAD causes life-threatening complications, such as systemic infections due to lack of blood flow to your limbs, amputation of the affected limb may be the only treatment option.
In hopes of providing our community with valuable information about PAD and its effects on your health, we’ve developed an educational and innovative program here at Vascular Access Centers that we call Health Evaluations for Limb Preservation (HELP). Schedule a visit today and ask about HELP.