Peripheral arterial disease (PAD)
What is PAD? Peripheral arterial disease is caused by blockages in the arteries that supply blood to the lower extremities of the body. It can begin in the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body, and continue along the arteries that supply blood to each leg all the way to your toes. Because of the large area that this disease covers, symptoms can vary greatly from patient to patient. Most importantly, it is not until advanced disease or blockages are present that people experience the classic symptoms. Burning, cramping, and discomfort in the legs are most common while exercising, especially upstairs or at an incline. This condition is serious, especially in people with diabetes, because it can result in poor healing of minor cuts that can lead to serious consequences including infection and amputation of a limb.
Symptoms of Leg Blockages: • Pain or cramping in the buttocks, thigh, or calves • Worse when exercising • Cool skin especially below the knee • Loss of hair on the legs • Thinning of the skin on the legs or ulcers How is PAD diagnosed? There are several tests available to detect peripheral arterial disease and monitor its progression. These include screening tests called the Ankle Brachial Index (ABI), arterial duplex or Doppler ultrasound, and CT scans with contrast. Your doctor may decide to send you for a procedure called an angiography which not only diagnoses your condition but can treat it with a stent or angioplasty. Some patients may have such advanced disease or in an area that is better suited for surgical repair. How can you prevent or manage PAD? • Stop smoking (this is one of the most important modifications) • Exercise • Reduce blood pressure • Maintain optimal cholesterol