Peripheral artery disease, PAD, is a condition in which the blood flow to the arms or legs has been diminished. This usually occurs because circulation is blocked to some degree. The circulation cycle begins with a heartbeat, which pushes oxygenated blood into the arteries. The arteries carry this blood to all of the organs of the body. Peripheral artery disease is often a byproduct of atherosclerosis, also known as “hardening of the arteries.” Arterial hardening happens when a plaque of cholesterol, calcium, and fatty deposits build up in one or more arteries. The resulting peripheral artery disease means that the tissues farthest from the heart are not receiving the blood supply they need. The symptoms of this lack of circulation can become debilitating. Here, we discuss what those symptoms are and what patients may do to manage their health.
Common Symptoms of Peripheral Arterial Disease
When peripheral artery disease first develops, there are usually no symptoms to speak of. The occasional leg pain when walking may not feel like anything to worry about. This symptom is referred to as claudication, and it may include aching or cramping in the leg due to use. Pain typically occurs in the calf muscles. Claudication usually improves or resolves within a few minutes when the person takes a break to rest their leg.
Additional symptoms of peripheral artery disease may develop as the condition progresses. These include:
- Painful cramping in one or both hips, thighs, or calf muscles after certain activities, such as climbing stairs
- Leg weakness
- Leg numbness
- Shiny skin on the legs
- Discolored skin on the legs
- Coldness in the lower leg or foot, especially when contrasted with the other leg
- Sores on the toes, feet, or legs that won’t heal
- Faint pulse or no pulse in the legs or feet
- Pain when using the arms, such as aching when writing or performing other tasks.
Can PAD be Managed Without a Doctor’s Care?
Peripheral artery disease that is secondary to hardening of the arteries can be an indication of serious health risks. Most often, a doctor will order some form of conservative care to manage symptoms and prevent worsening when PAD is diagnosed in its early stages. At that time, a patient may be advised to modify their diet to reduce fat and sugar intake that can worsen atherosclerosis. Patients with diabetes may be encouraged to work with a registered dietician who can tailor a dietary plan around their health needs. Additionally, patients with PAD should walk. However, walking can be the primary source of pain for some patients. In these cases, a patient may engage in supervised exercise therapy in which movement is alternated with periods of rest.
Sometimes, PAD requires medical intervention. The objective of professional treatments is two-fold. The doctor seeks to reduce the symptoms in the legs, and also prevent the worsening of the atherosclerosis that is inhibiting adequate circulation.
We perform several tests and procedures in our in-office surgical suite, including:
- Vascular Ultrasound
- Arterial Stenting
- Intravascular ultrasound
We are proud to offer professional services in a friendly Dallas office. To schedule your visit, contact us at (214) 556-8880.