When you think about plaque buildup in your blood vessels (atherosclerosis), you may automatically think about the arteries in your heart. But those aren’t the only blood vessels at risk of the narrowing or blockage caused by the accumulation of plaque along the walls.
The blood vessels that supply blood to the rest of your body, referred to as your peripheral arteries, are also susceptible to plaque buildup. It’s estimated that more than 8 million people in the United States have peripheral artery disease (PAD), the medical term for this condition.
At Memphis Vein Center in Memphis, Tennessee, our board-certified cardiologist, Dr. Kishore Arcot, wants you to know more about PAD and how it can affect your health.
1. PAD risk factors
It’s possible to have peripheral artery disease and not know it. In many cases, PAD develops without causing any symptoms.
However, there are factors that increase your risk of developing PAD, such as:
- Being over 50
- Obesity (body mass index of 30 or higher)
- History of diabetes or high blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
- Family history of vascular disease, heart attack, or stroke
You may also be at risk of PAD if you have high blood homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is a protein that helps build and maintain body tissue.
2. Know the signs and symptoms of PAD
As previously noted, you can have PAD without exhibiting signs and symptoms. Or, your symptoms may be mild and dismissed as the general aches and pains of aging.
PAD most often affects the blood vessels in your legs. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of PAD include:
- Leg pain when walking
- Pain or cramping in your legs, arms, hips, thighs, or calf muscles
- Leg numbness or weakness
- Coldness in your lower leg or foot
- A bluish hue on your legs
- Sores on your toes, feet, or legs that won’t heal
- Shiny skin on your legs
- Slower hair and toenail growth
In addition to various symptoms that affect your legs, erectile dysfunction in men is also a common symptom of PAD.
3. How PAD affects your health
Like other vascular conditions, PAD increases your risk of developing health complications, such as coronary artery disease, heart attack, or stroke.
Reduced or blocked blood flow through your peripheral blood arteries also increases your risk of developing critical limb ischemia, which may cause constant pain and sores on your legs that don't heal.
Over time, due to poor circulation and the inability to properly heal, your sores may become infected, which may lead to gangrene (tissue death) and limb amputation.
4. Preventing PAD
Though you can’t change all the factors that increase your risk of developing PAD, making a few lifestyle changes may lower your odds and improve your health.
For preventing PAD, we recommend:
- Quitting smoking
- Keeping your blood sugar under control if you have diabetes
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising regularly
We also strongly encourage you to make healthy food choices that include plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy sources of protein like fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and seeds.
5. Treating your PAD
We specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of PAD. Our team works closely with you to design a treatment plan that improves blood circulation, overall health, and quality of life.
The specifics of your plan depend on your symptoms, risk factors, lifestyle, and medical history. In addition to healthy lifestyle changes, we may also suggest prescription medication to improve blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as medication to prevent the formation of blood clots.
If medical management fails to improve your PAD or you’re at risk of developing more serious health issues, we may suggest surgical intervention, such as:
- Angioplasty with or without stenting
- Bypass surgery
PAD is a common circulatory condition, but we provide treatments that improve blood vessel health and reduce your risk of complications.
If you have concerns about PAD, we can help. Contact us by calling the office or requesting an appointment online today.