Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) also called peripheral arterial disease is a circulatory problem categorised by narrowing of the arteries serving legs, stomach, arms and head resulting in reduced blood flow. This condition is caused due to excess accumulation of fat deposits in the arteries. Patient with peripheral artery disease suffers from intense leg pain when walking due to lack of blood flow to the lower extremities. It also reduces the blood flow to the heart and brain.
Adapting a disciplined lifestyle and staying physically active can greatly help in the management of peripheral artery disease.
Peripheral artery disease is often caused due to atherosclerosis, a condition where plaques get deposited in the arterial walls and impede blood flow. While atherosclerosis usually affects the heart, whereas PAD affects the entire arteries in the body. When the arteries carrying blood to the extremities are affected it results in peripheral arterial disease.
In rare cases, peripheral artery disease may be caused due to blood vessel inflammation, any injury to limbs, and exposure to radiation or anatomical deformities of ligaments or muscles.Also Read: Atherosclerosis - Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Generally, people with peripheral artery disease may have mild or no symptoms, however, some people may have extreme leg pain when walking (claudication). Some of the symptoms observed with claudication include muscle pain, cramping in legs or arms which is stimulated by activity like walking but settles after a few minutes of rest. Serious claudication can make it difficult for the patient to walk and do other regular activities due to unbearable pain.
Some of the other signs and symptoms include:
Numbness or leg weakness
Blisters on toes, feet or legs that does not heal
Colour change on the legs
Glossy skin appearance on legs
Weak pulse in legs or feet
Some of the factors that can increase the risk of developing peripheral artery disease include:
Older age people, after 50 years of age
A family history of heart disease or stroke
High levels of homocysteine
People with peripheral artery disease are also at risk of developing complications such as:
Critical limb ischemia is a condition that starts when an open wound doesn’t heal caused due to an injury or an infection of feet or legs. As injuries or infection advances it result in tissue death (gangrene), which may sometimes require amputation of the affected limb.
Peripheral artery disease can also lead to fat build-up in arteries carrying blood to the heart and brain which may result in stroke and heart attack.
Diagnosis And Treatment
Some of the tests suggested by the doctor to diagnose peripheral arterial disease include:
A complete physical examination is done to assess any signs of PAD like a weak pulse beneath a narrowed artery, whooshing sound over arteries heard with a stethoscope and an unhealed wound due to poor blood flow.
Certain blood work like lipid profile and blood glucose levels are also measured.
Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI): It is a common test used to diagnose PAD, where the blood pressure in the ankles is compared with that of the arm.
Ultrasound: Doppler ultrasound can help the doctor examine blood flow through blood vessels and determine for any blocked or narrowed arteries.
Angiography: In this test, a dye is injected into blood vessels, which allows the doctor to see blood flow through arteries and look out for any plaque deposits.
Catheter Angiography: It is a more invasive procedure which allows for simultaneous diagnosis and treatment. After identifying a narrowed region of a blood vessel, the doctor may then widen it by inserting a tiny balloon or by injection drugs that improve blood circulation.
The two major goals of treatment for peripheral artery disease include managing symptoms so that patient can resume normal activities and prevent the progression of atherosclerosis in the body to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. The patient can achieve these goals by adopting a disciplined lifestyle, specifically early in the course of the disease.
The doctors may also prescribe medications to prevent blood clots, control blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol and ease pain and other symptoms associated with peripheral artery disease. In a few cases, angioplasty and bypass surgery may be required to treat claudication.
Following these lifestyle modifications can help people with peripheral artery disease to manage symptoms and prevent the advancement of the condition.
Smoking cessation, as tobacco greatly elevates the risk of heart attack, stroke and PAD
Get regular physical activity, aim for at least 150 minutes a week that helps to enhance blood circulation.
Eat a well-balanced and nutritious diet loaded with a rich array of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain cereals. Cut down low on salt, saturated fat and cholesterol.
Maintain healthy body weight.
Keep the blood sugar levels in good control.