Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) occurs due to a buildup of plaque (fat cholesterol and calcium) that accumulate in the walls of the artery. This condition can get severe enough to slow the flow of blood to the arteries in the legs and arms. This is usually caused by atherosclerosis, but the presence of atherosclerosis doesn’t always cause PAD symptoms.
One of the most signs common of PAD is claudication, which is described as cramping, tightening, or discomfort in the legs brought on by walking. The symptoms usually occur starting at the same distance, and generally disappear within a few minutes of rest. The most common location of claudication is in the calf, although it can also occur in the thigh and the buttock.
Other PAD symptoms include:
PAD is most often caused by atherosclerosis, otherwise known as hardening of the arteries. If you have PAD in your legs, then your heart vessels may also be involved. Other causes of PAD include blood vessel inflammation, trauma to the artery, or the long-term effects of radiation.
Many of the factors that increase your risk of developing PAD are controllable through lifestyle modifications. These risk factors include
Uncontrollable risk factors include family history and increasing age, particularly after the age of 50.
If PAD is left untreated and allowed to progress, there’s a good chance that you will develop difficulty walking, open arterial sores or ulcers on your legs, or severe pain in your feet at night, due to lack of circulation. There also is a concern of developing black gangrene, which will require some form of toe or leg amputation.
Because advanced PAD can have serious consequences, treatment is focused on slowing down this progressive disease, while preventing any complications. This routinely includes lifestyle modifications such as:
If the PAD is significantly symptomatic, surgery may be required, including
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