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Peripheral Arterial Disease

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) known as atherosclerosis, causes poor circulation or hardening of the arteries. PAD progresses depending on the area of the circulation and your health history.

PAD most commonly blocks circulation to the legs and feet but also to the brain. It can be associated with high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. PAD can cause pain in the calves when walking, but in its more severe form, it causes leg ulcers, and even gangrene that can lead to amputation. It can build up over a lifetime; its symptoms may not arise until later in life.

Many people who have PAD without symptoms are at a high risk for suffering an early heart attack or stroke. Research has proven that the life expectancy for a person with PAD is greatly reduced. For example, the risk of dying from heart disease is six times higher for those with PAD compared to those without. Therefore, it is important to discuss the possibility of PAD with your doctor if you have several risk factors.

Risk Factors

  • Smoking – number one risk factor for PAD
  • Diabetes – diabetes patients are greatly at risk to also develop PAD
  • Age – age 50 or older
  • Gender - occurs slightly more often in men than women
  • History of heart disease – family history of cardiovascular disease is sometimes a risk factor
  • High blood pressure – when blood pressure remains high, the lining of the artery walls becomes damaged
  • High levels of homocycteine – an amino acid in your blood

Symptoms

  • In severe PAD cases, insufficient blood flow to the feet and legs may cause a burning/aching pain in the feet and toes while resting, particularly at night while lying in bed
  • Cooling of skin in specific areas of legs or feet
  • Color changes in the skin
  • Toe and foot sores that do not heal

Treatment

Treatment options vary and depend on your overall health and diagnosis severity. Your physician can provide you with information to help you understand your options. Most cases are treated without surgery.

A treatment plan involves lifestyle changes, as well as one or more of the following:

  • Exercise therapy
  • Drug treatment
  • Foot care
  • Endovascular procedures (stenting)
  • Surgery