Are you walking less than you previously had been because of unexplained aches in your leg muscles? Do you have sores on your feet that take longer to heal than they should? Do your legs get much colder than your arms? If any of these ring true for you, then it is entirely possible that you have a condition known as peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
What Causes Peripheral Arterial Disease?
There are a variety of causes of PAD, but the main problem is atherosclerosis, which is a narrowing and hardening of the arteries. This condition is often caused by smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and physical inactivity. These root causes are predominately lifestyle-based, which provides encouragement for those who wish to be proactive in avoiding peripheral arterial disease.
Another major cause of this ailment is diabetes. People with diabetes are more likely to develop a worse case of PAD than non-diabetic individuals and treatment tends to be less effective, but progress is possible in these instances.
Symptoms of PAD
Muscle pain in the legs, which comes from the long arteries in the legs being narrowed by atherosclerosis, is one symptom. Leg pain during exercise that goes away when activity levels decrease is another. Affected muscle groups include the calves, hip, thighs, and feet. Numbness or burning are sometimes experienced by people with PAD. It is entirely possible to have a severe blockage, but no pain. In this situation, the body has grown blood vessels that circumvent the blockage altogether.
There are other signs of peripheral arterial disease, such as wounds that will not heal as they should, shiny skin on the legs, and loss of leg hair. If your legs are colder than your arms are, or if you can feel a fainter pulse in your feet than in your hands, it is entirely possible that you are experiencing this condition.
Tests for PAD are generally painless and not particularly complicated. One way of determining whether a patient has peripheral arterial disease or not is to compare blood pressure at both the ankle and the upper arm. In a healthy individual, these measurements should be the same. If the blood pressure at the ankle is found to be lower, then a patient might be at risk. In severe cases, we might recommend that an x-ray (specifically, an angiogram) be used for diagnosis. An angiogram uses an injection of dye into a blood vessel in order to get a better look at what is actually happening inside the patient.
Treatment for PAD
As if you need another reason to quit smoking or using tobacco, know that doing so will help you get over this particular ailment. Eating well and exercising are other healthy choices that we recommend in any case, but they can help you prevent and even treat peripheral arterial disease. Watching your cholesterol and blood pressure will go a long way toward keeping PAD at bay.
In instances where healthier living choices are not having enough impact on the condition, you may need to be prescribed medication to help deal with it. Certain prescriptions are proven to help improve blood flow and this could be an answer to peripheral arterial disease. In rare cases that are severe in nature, surgery may be required, but typically the other treatments are effective and an operation is not needed.
If you require further information, or need to schedule an appointment, contact Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists by calling (512) 328-8900. You can also take advantage of our convenient online form to schedule an appointment with us today.