What is Peripheral Artery Disease?
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) affects blood flow and circulation due to narrowing, blockage, or spasms in a blood vessel. A plaque buildup around arteries restricts blood flow in blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart to other organs and parts of the body, like legs and feet. This plaque buildup is called atherosclerosis, which can also cause coronary artery disease.
Most people don’t show symptoms of PAD until later in life. If a severe case is left untreated, it can lead to blood clots that kill the tissue. These blood clots can cause ulcers and gangrene. They can also lead to the amputation of affected limbs.
Get tested for Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) – and begin treatment ASAP
What Causes Peripheral Artery Disease?
Atherosclerosis causes PAD, which happens when plaque builds up on artery walls. Arteries have a hollow tube shape with a smooth lining that prevents blood clots and promotes blood flow. Those affected by PAD have plaque, made of fat and cholesterol, built up inside the artery walls.
The arteries become blocked when the plaque, already causing them to narrow, becomes brittle or inflamed and ruptures. Once the plaque ruptures, it causes a blood clot that can completely block the artery. As a result, blocked arteries cannot move blood to nourish organs and other tissues.
Risk Factors For Developing Peripheral Artery Disease
Type 2 diabetes can cause blood vessel damage since excess blood sugar affects the elasticity of blood vessels and causes them to narrow. Furthermore, those with diabetes likely also have hypertension and high cholesterol and are obese. All of these conditions increase risk factors for PAD.
Smoking and tobacco use increases the risk of heart disease by up to 4 times higher. In addition, smoking damages your blood vessels and makes them sticky, which increases the risk of blood clots.
Those over 65 have a higher risk of developing peripheral artery disease, and those over 50 with risk factors for atherosclerosis also have a higher risk.
A body mass index over 30 strains blood vessels and arteries. One of the first measures of treatment includes reducing weight through exercise and a healthy diet.
Those with a family history of atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease, and peripheral artery disease are at a higher risk of developing it themselves.
A sedentary lifestyle, poor nutrition, and smoking all contribute to a higher risk of atherosclerosis and peripheral artery disease. Since these are all controllable, you can decrease your risk by making lifestyle adjustments.
As mentioned earlier, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes all increase the risk of narrowing arteries. Another measure of treatment tackles these existing conditions to improve PAD.
Peripheral Artery Disease Symptoms
- Muscle cramps during exercise (claudication)
- Cold skin temperature
- Shiny skin
- Hair loss on legs
- Thick, opaque toenails
- Weak pulse in legs and feet
- Pale or bluish skin
Peripheral Artery Disease Treatment Options
There are many treatment options available to you at Michigan Vascular. Schedule a free consultation to see what options are best for you.
Lifestyle Changes: Doctors will likely first suggest lifestyle changes to control risk factors like a healthy diet, regular exercise, and not smoking.
Treat Existing Conditions: Next, you will likely treat existing conditions that may worsen PAD. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, your doctor will treat these.
Surgery: Severe PAD that limits mobility and disrupts daily life may require surgical treatment. Depending on the procedure, you may need to stay one or two nights at the hospital to recover.
Vascular surgery: The surgeon will either create a bypass graft from another part of the body or use a tube made of synthetic material. The graft will be placed in the narrow or blocked artery area.
Angioplasty: The surgeon inserts a catheter in the artery to create a larger opening and increase blood flow. Widening the artery can be done by inflating a balloon (balloon angioplasty), shaving away part of the artery’s inside walls (atherectomy), zapping away the blockage with a laser (laser angioplasty), or a tiny coil left in the artery to keep it open (stent).