According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 6.5 million Americans aged 40 and older live with peripheral arterial disease (PAD). This condition develops when your arteries become clogged and cannot transport enough blood to your extremities, including your legs and feet. PAD can cause coldness in the legs and feet, pain and cramping in your legs or buttocks, and color changes in your skin. If you have been diagnosed with PAD, there are some important facts you need to know. Our podiatrists explain more about this condition and why it’s essential to seek medical attention if you have it.
Eight Facts About PAD
Not everyone who has PAD will experience the same symptoms, and some patients will have few to any symptoms at all. Because the disease affects people differently, the type of treatment needed depends on a person’s lifestyle and the severity of their condition. Some facts to know about PAD include the following:
- PAD is caused by plaque buildup in the arteries. Plaque builds up over time as cholesterol and other fatty deposits accumulate in the walls of your arteries. This restricts blood flow and oxygen from reaching your feet, causing pain and other issues.
- There are various factors that can increase your risk of developing PAD. Risk factors for PAD include diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol levels, hypertension, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. These risk factors all contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries.
- African Americans are at a higher risk for PAD. African Americans are more than twice as likely to develop PAD.
- Poor circulation can lead to skin discoloration. Another sign of poor circulation is discoloration of the leg or foot. Blueish-purple patches can appear on areas with poor blood flow due to narrowed arteries.
- Serious complications can result from PAD. If left untreated for too long, PAD can lead to painful ulcers on the toes or feet due to restricted oxygen supply from blocked arteries. This can eventually lead to tissue death if not treated properly with antibiotics or surgery.
- There are certain ways to help prevent PAD. You can help prevent PAD by quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet low in saturated fat, and exercising regularly. Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to prevent plaque buildup in your arteries. Eating right and exercising regularly helps keep cholesterol levels down while improving overall circulation throughout the body, including your feet.
- PAD increases your risk for coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease in the U.S. Having a condition such as PAD can put you at a higher risk of developing coronary heart disease.
- Treatment for PAD may involve medications or surgery. In addition to making lifestyle changes, your doctor may prescribe medications, such as aspirin or statins, to treat PAD. In severe cases where medications are not effective, surgery may be recommended.
How a Podiatrist Can Help
It is important to see a podiatrist who can diagnose and treat PAD. An experienced podiatrist can assess your condition accurately before recommending a treatment plan to meet your individual needs. To diagnose PAD, a podiatrist may review your medical history; examine your legs to test their temperature, color, and appearance; check to determine if there is adequate blood flow in the legs; and/or perform an ankle-brachial index test to check blood pressure readings. Further testing, such as an angiography, ultrasound, or blood tests, may be ordered if a blocked artery is suspected.
Once a diagnosis is confirmed, treatment options will be discussed based on your individual needs. If left untreated, PAD can result in amputation or even death.
Contact Our Austin Podiatrists Today
If you are experiencing signs of PAD, contact our experienced podiatrists at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists for an evaluation today. We can provide a wide variety of advanced treatment options based on your individual needs. To schedule an appointment, contact us online, or call our office at 512-328-8900.