More than eight million Americans have peripheral artery disease, or PAD. It is caused by atherosclerosis or plaque buildup reducing the flow of blood in the peripheral arteries. These are the blood vessels that carry blood away from the heat. The most common type is lower extremity PAD which reduces blood flow to the legs and feet. This is a serious disease and should not be ignored. How is peripheral artery disease diagnosed?
Common Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease
Regardless of symptoms, everyone with PAD is at high risk for cardiovascular disease, sores, infections, and even loss of your limb.
Watch for the following symptoms:
- Cramping in your legs along with pain, heaviness, and aches. Pain occurs when walking and climbing stairs, but goes away with rest. You may feel the pain in your calf, buttocks, thigh or foot.
- One foot or leg may become discolored and turn blue or pale.
- Toenails and leg hair may stop growing.
- One foot feeling colder than the other.
- With severe PAD you may have pain even during rest.
- Sores and wounds on your feet, legs, or toes may develop slowly, heal slowly, or not at all.
- Pins and needles with leg weakness or numbness.
Half the people with PAD have no symptoms. They develop slowly and don’t appear until later in life and when the artery is 60% blocked.
Diagnosing Peripheral Artery Disease
If you have even one or two of the above symptoms, make an appointment with Advanced Vascular Associates at one of our locations in Morristown, Pompton Plains, Jefferson, Bridgewater. Diagnosing it early and beginning treatment early can lessen the risks of heart attack, stroke, or an amputation.
A blood test is the first way to diagnose PAD, looking for diabetes, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides in the bloodstream.
An ultrasound of the legs and feet will show how the blood is moving through the blood vessels, and it will discover any blockages or narrowed arteries.
An ankle brachial index (ABI) will compare the blood pressure in your arm to your ankle.
An angiography will use MRI imaging technology, X-rays, and CT scans to find blockages in an artery. A dye is usually injected into a blood vessel helping the artery show up more clearly on the images.
Treatments for PAD
The most important thing you can do for yourself is to quit smoking.
You may be prescribed cholesterol medications, as well as prescriptions for blood sugar control and blood pressure. Medications to prevent blood clotting and additional meds for pain may also be prescribed.
PAD is a serious disease and nothing to ignore. Studies have shown you can reverse PAD with exercise and reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure to normal levels. And of course quit smoking. Contact Advanced Vascular Associates at (973) 540-9700 if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of PAD especially if you are a smoker or have some of the risk factors.