What is peripheral artery disease (PAD)?
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) refers to clogged arteries in the legs. PAD is a good indicator of arterial disease elsewhere in the body. People with peripheral artery disease are at risk of heart disease and stroke. Symptoms can include pain when walking that subsides at rest, leg cramps, pain at rest, numbness and skin discoloration, sores or other symptoms of skin breakdown. About 10 million people in the US suffer from peripheral artery disease but symptoms show in only in about one-third of patients. Women are typically asymptomatic. If PAD can be detected in women while being asymptomatic it can be life saving especially since heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the United States
What are the symptoms of peripheral artery disease (PAD)?
People often do not report pain symptoms assuming it is a normal process of aging. However early detection can save lives especially since PAD can give indication of atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Claudication or leg pain that occurs when walking or exercising and stops when the person rests, is the most common symptom of PAD. Other symptoms can included tingling, numbness, feeling cold in the lower legs and feet. Ulcers or sores on the legs or feet that don't heal can also be symptomatic of PAD.
What are the causes of Peripheral artery disease (PAD)?
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is caused by the build up of plaque in the peripheral arteries particularly in the pelvic area and the legs. These arteries are known as the peripheral arteries or those arteries that are away from the heart. Plaque consists of cholesterol, fats and other matter and plaque deposits can grow to the extent that blood flow is reduced. In some cases when the plaque deposits become swollen or brittle, they can break causing a blood clot which can further clog the artery or even completely block blood flow. Build up of plaque in arteries is known as atherosclerosis or hardened arteries.
In atherosclerosis, blood flow is restriced causing oxygen and other nutrients from reaching tissues. The arteries become stiff and inelastic and are unable to adjust to changing blood flow demands. High cholesterol, High blood pressure, smoking and diabetes can also cause damage the blood vessel wall, making them susceptible to diffuse plaque deposits.