According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over six million people in the U.S., age 40 and older, suffer from peripheral artery disease (PAD), also sometimes called peripheral vascular disease (PVD). This condition develops when the arteries narrow, often due to fatty plaque and calcium buildup. This leads to decreased circulation from the heart to other parts of the body. Symptoms and treatments for PAD

The skilled podiatrists at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists have treated many patients suffering from PAD. Often considered a “silent threat,” PAD can affect people without their knowing about it because there isn’t always pain or obvious symptoms. Because our podiatrists understand what to look for and how to diagnose this condition, it’s especially important to schedule an appointment if you are at an increased risk of this disease.

Risk Factors of PAD

There are certain medical conditions and many factors that increase your risk of developing PAD. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a history of smoking. Other factors include the following:

  • You have a family history of PAD
  • You have diabetes
  • You’re overweight
  • You don’t eat a healthy diet
  • You have chronic kidney disease
  • You smoke or have a history of smoking
  • You have a personal history of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke
  • You don’t exercise regularly of exercise
  • You’re over the age of 50 with any of the listed medical conditions or risk factors
  • You’re over the age of 65 regardless of medical history

Symptoms of PAD

PAD is a potentially painful condition that can impact the extremities, especially the legs. The patients we treat at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists for PAD often notice the following symptoms:

  • Burning or aching pain in your toes and feet while at rest
  • Sores on your toes and feet that don’t heal
  • Cold feet and/or toes
  • Prickling, numbness, and/or weakness in the foot or leg
  • Muscle pain and cramping
  • Hair loss or thinning on the affected limb
  • Feet and/or legs that appear pale or blue

The muscle cramping a person with PAD sometimes feels while lying down or exercising is their body’s way of signaling that blood flow is insufficient and they’re not getting enough blood, oxygen, or nutrients in their limbs. They may not feel this pain when upright and stationary because less blood flow is needed then.

Up to half of people with PAD have no symptoms or mistake their symptoms for other conditions. Many people dismiss PAD pain as a sign of aging, arthritis, or sciatica. People with diabetes often attribute their PAD symptoms to neuropathy. Thus, it’s important to see a podiatrist right away if you start to see any type of change in your legs and feet.

Other Potential Conditions Related to PAD

Blood circulation is critical for supplying the organs in the body with the needed nutrients and oxygen to function properly. If a person’s blood flow is limited, it increases their risk for other medical problems, including the following:

  • Gangrene
  • Coronary artery disease/heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Amputations

How an Austin Podiatrist Can Help

Many people who are familiar with PAD assume that only cardiologists and vascular specialists are involved in treating it. Because of the impact PAD can have on feet, podiatrists are also able to provide care for this condition. To diagnose and treat PAD, the foot doctors in our central Texas office will:

  • Obtain a personal and family medical history
  • Complete a physical examination
  • Complete painless PADnet diagnostic testing
  • Coordinate with other members of your medical team
  • Order further testing
  • Identify additional specialists who could be of assistance

Our award-winning podiatrists at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists can also treat other foot and ankle issues that have developed as a result of PAD and recommend other ways to help you reduce your risk of developing other medical conditions that can result from decreased blood flow:

  • Smoking cessation
  • Heart-healthy diet
  • Routine exercise
  • Diabetic footgear
  • Medication

Surgery for PAD

In the most severe cases, surgery may be required for PAD; however, we generally prefer to use less invasive treatments, which typically carry a lower risk of complications and are generally more convenient for our patients.

Craig Thomajan
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Austin Podiatrist