Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) – Comprehensive Guide and Treatments
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is also known as peripheral vascular disease or PVD. It is a circulatory issue that occurs when blood flow becomes restricted to your limbs. This often results from plaque buildup or atherosclerosis in your arteries. While PAD most commonly affects your legs, it may also reduce blood flow to your heart or brain.
When you develop peripheral arterial disease, your extremities don’t receive enough blood flow to meet demand. This causes symptoms, most notably leg pain when walking (claudication).
Peripheral artery disease is likely a sign of fatty deposits in your arteries. This is often called atherosclerosis. You can treat peripheral artery disease by quitting tobacco, exercising, and eating a healthy diet.
What is Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)?
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is also recognized as a peripheral vascular disease (PVD). This prevalent circulatory issue arises when blood flow to your limbs becomes restricted. The primary cause is plaque buildup or atherosclerosis in your arteries. This occurs when fats and cholesterol deposit and thicken on your artery walls. If PAD isn’t carefully managed, it can lead to reduced blood flow to your legs and to your heart or brain, increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Symptoms of Peripheral Arterial Disease
Not everyone with PAD experiences overt symptoms. However, when symptoms are present, the most common one is claudication—leg pain when walking. The extent of the discomfort can differ from patient to patient, ranging from mild to debilitating. A host of other symptoms may indicate PAD, including:
- Fatigue or cramping of your calf, thigh, hip, or buttock muscles often after walking a particular distance.
- Leg numbness or weakness.
- Coldness in your lower leg or foot, especially when compared with the other side.
- pain in your toes or feet while resting may demonstrate an advancing PAD case.
- An open wound or ulcer on your toes or feet: This is often at a pressure point on the foot and may progress to gangrene.
- Hair loss or slower hair growth on your feet and legs.
- Shiny skin on your legs: The skin on your legs may appear taut and glossy, indicating poor blood circulation.
- Erectile dysfunction in men.
One crucial symptom is critical limb ischemia, which stems from severely blocked arteries and significantly reduced blood flow. It starts as open sores that do not heal, progresses to tissue death (gangrene), and occasionally leading to limb amputation if not treated timely.
Causes of peripheral vascular disease
Peripheral vascular disease is often caused by fatty deposits or plaque that builds upon the artery walls. This is also known as atherosclerosis, and it can reduce your blood flow.
Atherosclerosis can affect any artery in your body. When it’s in your arms and legs, doctors call it peripheral arterial disease.
The causes of PAD include smoking, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and high blood pressure. Diabetes, kidney failure, and obesity are other causes of peripheral arterial disease. Genetic factors could possibly play a role. Less commonly, blood vessel inflammation or injury to your limbs. Also, the unusual anatomy of your ligaments or muscles or radiation exposure can cause PAD.
Diagnosing Peripheral Arterial Disease
Some of the tests to diagnose peripheral artery disease are:
Doctors can often detect Peripheral Vascular Disease through physical examinations. Here’s how they do it:
Listening with a Stethoscope: They use a stethoscope to listen to your heart and neck. This can often provide valuable clues to your vascular health.
Pressure Test: After that, they press various areas on your arms and legs. If a whooshing sound is heard while your arm is being pressed, this is typically an indicator of Peripheral Vascular Disease.
Pulse Check: Finally, they check the pulse in your arm. If the pulse is found to be weak or not palpable at all, this is another tell-tale sign that you may have Peripheral Vascular Disease.
In essence, physical exams can be quite telling, and these signs often point toward the presence of Peripheral Vascular Disease.
Ankle-brachial index (ABI)
This is a test that a doctor can do to see whether you are likely to have PAD. The doctor will want you first to use a machine that makes your ankle swell. He or she will then check the ankle using a special machine and a cuff on your arm. It’s like when you take your blood pressure. Another way to test for this is running or walking on a treadmill. This is when the doctor checks your blood pressure from head to toe immediately after working out on the treadmill.
Special ultrasound imaging techniques can diagnose PAD. Doppler ultrasound can help your doctor evaluate blood flow through your blood vessels. This determines blocked or narrowed arteries.
An angiography uses a dye (contrast material) injected into your blood vessels. This allows us to view blood flow through your arteries as it happens. Your doctor can trace the flow of the contrast material using imaging techniques.
A blood sample can measure your cholesterol and triglycerides and check for diabetes.
PAD is a serious condition. Cramping while walking or exercising can be caused by clogged arteries. These arteries have a decreased blood flow resulting in cramping. Other side effects include numbness, weakness, or tingling in the legs and feet and burning pain in the feet and toes. In severe cases, it is known for causing critical limb ischemia. This is a condition that begins as open sores that do not heal. When sores will progress to tissue depth, it is known as gangrene. Sometimes this requires amputation of the affected limb.
Furthermore, peripheral arterial disease increases your risk of a stroke or heart attack. Atherosclerosis causes the signs and symptoms of PAD and isn’t limited to your legs. Fat deposits also build up in arteries supplying blood to your heart and brain.
- Quit smoking if you’re a smoker.
- If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under reasonable control.
- Exercise regularly. Aim for 30 to 45 minutes several times a week after you’ve gotten your doctor’s OK.
- Lower your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, if applicable.
- Eat foods that are low in saturated fat.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
To salvage the limbs, PAD is medically treated with prescribed medications. These medications treat high cholesterol and control blood pressure. As well as decrease pain while walking to increase exercise. They also aim to prevent the buildup of plaque or the formation of blood clots.
PAD is also treated using minimally invasive interventional radiology procedures. Angioplasty opens a blocked artery with a medical balloon, enabling better blood flow. In some cases, the affected arteries need to remain open using a stent, a small metal cylinder.
Another procedure is a stent graft. This procedure uses a stent covered with synthetic fabric. This stent is inserted in the blood vessels to bypass affected arteries.
Moreover, a third interventional radiology procedure for peripheral artery disease is atherectomy. This procedure uses a small catheter at the site of the blockage. This catheter shaves the plaque away from the inside of the artery and removes it from the patient’s body.
Occasionally, PAD may be severe enough that a medical team has no choice but to perform surgery. This may be the only way to remove blockages or create bypasses around the clogged areas.
Coastal Vascular Center is Equipped to Treat Your Peripheral Arterial Disease
Coastal Vascular Center is the Houston area’s peripheral arterial disease specialist.
We are an outpatient clinic. All procedures occur in a safe environment with highly skilled physician staff. Patients find it more convenient to visit our clinic because of our personalized care. Coastal Vascular Center specializes in concierge medicine and boutique-level patient care.
Additionally, our treatment center also treats vascular diseases, uterine fibroids, and dialysis management. Coastal Vascular Center also focuses on minimally invasive procedures so that our patients experience a faster recovery time.
Dr. Ayar’s Experience
Dr. Divyang C. Ayar operates Coastal Vascular Center. He is a board-certified radiologist and a vascular specialist. Dr. Ayar has extensive experience treating patients suffering from peripheral arterial disease. His certification is in both diagnostic radiology and interventional and vascular radiology. With over 20 years of experience, Dr. Ayar understands your needs and concerns as a patient. He has performed thousands of successful vein management operations.
Under the direction of Dr. Ayar, Coastal Vascular Center specializes in treating the whole spectrum of venous disease. We treat – peripheral arterial disease, spider veins, and varicose veins. Additionally, we treat venous ulcers, leg swelling, and deep vein thrombosis. Coastal Vascular Center utilizes advanced techniques to provide minimally invasive treatment of venous disease. Give Coastal Vascular Center a call today!