Peripheral artery disease, or PAD, is a narrowing of the vessels that carry blood from the heart to the extremities. Though PAD can affect any blood vessel, it’s most common in the legs and feet, where reduced circulation can cause problems such as pain, slow-healing wounds, and an increased risk of amputation.
Fortunately, in many cases, preventive measures, early intervention and treatment, and healthy lifestyle changes can help patients avoid limb loss.
At Annapolis Foot & Ankle Center and Chesapeake Amputation Prevention Center, we offer Doppler testing and comprehensive care for peripheral artery disease. Here’s what you should know.
Peripheral Artery Disease Causes and Risk Factors
Peripheral artery disease is often caused by a buildup of fatty deposits called plaque that causes the arteries to harden and narrow in a process called atherosclerosis. However, PAD can also occur as the result of a traumatic injury, changes in the muscles or ligaments, or inflammation of the affected blood vessels. Risk factors associated with PAD development include:
- Family history of PAD, heart disease, or stroke
- Smoking or using tobacco products
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Sedentary lifestyle
- High homocysteine (an amino acid) levels
- Age (people 65 and older face increased risk for PAD)
African Americans and Hispanics also have an increased risk for PAD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Potential PAD Complications
Atherosclerosis-related PAD puts patients at risk for developing coronary artery disease and cerebrovascular disease, which could lead to a heart attack or stroke. It can also lead to critical limb ischemia, a condition that causes tissue to die due to an injury or infection and may necessitate amputation.
Peripheral Artery Disease Signs and Symptoms
Peripheral artery disease doesn’t always cause symptoms. When it does, leg pain or cramping that occurs while walking, but eases with rest—a condition called claudication—is most common. The pain can range from mild to severe and is often felt in the calf. Severe claudication can make standing, walking, and other daily activities difficult.
PAD can also cause other physical signs in the legs and feet, including:
- Cold skin, especially compared to the leg or foot on the other side
- Weak or absent pulse
- Shiny skin or changes in skin color
- Slowed toenail growth
- Decreased hair growth or hair loss
- Slow- or non-healing sores
Why and When to See a Central Maryland Podiatrist for PAD
Podiatrists are specially trained in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of conditions affecting the lower extremities, including peripheral artery disease. Regular visits with a skilled podiatrist can provide the monitoring necessary for essential early intervention.
Establishing a doctor-patient relationship with an experienced podiatric specialist is particularly important for people with diabetes or other health conditions that increase the risk of PAD.
Regardless, don’t ignore persistent leg pain that interrupts the daily routine or makes it difficult to participate in your favorite activities. See a podiatrist.
Peripheral Artery Disease Testing and Treatment
Annapolis Foot & Ankle Center and Chesapeake Amputation Prevention Center offer Doppler ultrasound testing for PAD at our clinics. This painless and non-invasive diagnostic method provides vital information about the blood flow in the lower extremities, allowing us to identify blocked or narrowed arteries.
PAD treatment options include lifestyle changes, medications, and surgical procedures for severe cases. Treatment recommendations may include:
- Following a supervised exercise program
- Eating a diet low in saturated fat
- Controlling blood sugar levels
- Managing blood pressure and cholesterol
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Avoiding cigarettes and other tobacco products
- Taking prescription antiplatelet medicines or statins to help prevent complications and lower cholesterol levels
When surgical intervention is necessary, there are a variety of procedures we can use to treat atherosclerosis, and bypass blocked arteries.
Prioritizing PAD Prevention and Early Intervention
At Annapolis Foot & Ankle Center and Chesapeake Amputation Prevention Center, our experts provide exceptional care to help patients at risk for—or suffering from—peripheral artery disease maintain mobility and avoid limb loss. Partner with us to take control of your podiatric health. Our dedicated team is here for you every step of the way.