Symptoms and treatments of peripheral artery disease you need to know

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Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs, usually the legs. When you develop PAD, your extremities — typically your legs — don’t receive enough blood flow to keep up with demand.

This can cause symptoms, especially during exercise, and can lead to more serious complications if not addressed. This review will discuss the symptoms and treatments of PAD in clear, simple language to help enhance understanding of this condition.

The hallmark symptom of PAD is claudication, which is pain, cramping, or fatigue in the legs or arms that starts with exercise and ends with rest. This discomfort is typically felt in the calf muscles, but it can also affect the thighs or buttocks.

For some, the pain might be severe enough to interfere with walking or other types of physical activity.

Other symptoms of PAD can include numbness or weakness in the legs, coldness in the lower leg or foot, especially when compared with the other side, sores on the toes, feet, or legs that won’t heal, a change in the color of the legs, and loss of hair or slower hair growth on the feet and legs.

In severe cases, symptoms can include gangrene, or tissue death, which is a serious condition that may lead to amputation if not promptly treated.

The risk of developing PAD increases with age and is more common in smokers and people with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a family history of vascular diseases.

These conditions and habits can cause atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries, narrowing them.

Diagnosis of PAD typically involves a physical examination and a test called the ankle-brachial index (ABI), which compares the blood pressure in the ankle with the blood pressure in the arm.

Other imaging tests might include ultrasound, angiography, or magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) to visualize blood flow and the condition of the arteries.

Treatment for PAD focuses on managing symptoms and reducing the risk of further complications, like heart attack and stroke.

Lifestyle changes are a fundamental part of treatment and include stopping smoking, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet low in saturated and trans fats.

Exercise, especially walking, is highly effective in improving symptoms and increasing the distance that a person with PAD can walk without pain.

Medical treatment may include medications to prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and manage pain and other symptoms. Statins, for example, can be used to lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, and possibly improve symptoms of claudication.

In more severe cases, procedural interventions may be necessary to restore blood flow. Angioplasty involves inserting a balloon-tipped catheter to open blocked arteries and sometimes placing a stent to keep them open.

In cases where angioplasty isn’t suitable, bypass surgery may be performed to reroute blood flow around the blocked artery.

Supervised exercise programs and cardiac rehabilitation programs can also be beneficial for individuals with PAD. These programs provide tailored exercise plans that safely increase the amount and intensity of exercise.

In conclusion, while PAD is a serious condition, understanding its symptoms and treatments can empower individuals to manage their health effectively.

Lifestyle changes, along with appropriate medical interventions, can significantly improve quality of life and reduce the risk of more severe complications associated with PAD.

If you care about heart health, please read studies that vitamin K helps cut heart disease risk by a third, and a year of exercise reversed worrisome heart failure.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about supplements that could help prevent heart disease, stroke, and results showing this food ingredient may strongly increase heart disease death risk.

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