Peripheral Arterial Disease - Are you at risk?headingContent

Posted on September 26, 2014

older woman sitting on a massage table holding her left kneeHave you experienced pains, dull aches or cramping in your legs and feet after walking? These feelings could be symptoms of a serious problem known as peripheral arterial disease (PAD). PAD is an often silent and sometimes deadly disease that can affect people of all ages.

What is PAD?

Peripheral arterial disease is an atherosclerotic disease, meaning it’s either a buildup of cholesterol plaque in or a hardening of the peripheral arteries. These are the arteries found throughout the body, excluding those around the heart. They include the carotid arteries and the arteries of the extremities, predominantly your legs and feet. This blockage restricts blood flow to your muscles and will lead to pain, cramping and numbness in the affected areas. It can also lead to sores, wounds and discoloration of the legs and feet.

Who is at risk?

While peripheral arterial disease can become a problem in anyone, at any age, it is most prevalent in those ages 65 and older. Other risk factors include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and a family history of the disease.

Diagnosis and Screening

Understanding the risk factors of PAD and getting screened is crucial to early detection of this disease. When visiting your physician, they should look for symptoms of PAD. If any are found or if you have any risk factors of PAD then a screening should take place.  The most typical screening for PAD is the Ankle-Brachial Index, which compares the blood pressure in your ankle to the blood pressure in your arm to evaluate how well blood is flowing in your limbs.

Treatment

“Once peripheral arterial disease has been diagnosed, medical therapy is the cornerstone of treatment,” says Miguel Diaz, MD, an interventional cardiologist with Tenet Florida Physician Services. A conservative regimen of aspirin and cholesterol medicine is often the first step in treating PAD. If these medicines fail to alleviate the PAD, an angiogram is the next course of action. This determines whether there are any severe blockages that require surgery as treatment. When PAD has progressed to the point of surgical intervention, your physician determines whether the anatomy of the patient allows for catheter-based treatment or if it is better treated with vascular surgery.