Peripheral artery disease, or PAD, is a collection of plaque (fat and cholesterol) in the arteries in your legs or arms. This makes it harder for your blood to carry oxygen and nutrients to the tissues. PAD is a chronic disease, but you can improve it with exercise, eating less fat and quitting tobacco products.
Peripheral artery disease signs and symptoms include:
- A change in the color of your legs.
- Leg numbness or weakness
- Coldness in your lower leg or foot, especially when compared with the other side
- Hair loss or slower hair growth on your feet and legs.
- Shiny skin on your legs
- No pulse or a weak pulse in your legs or feet
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- Pain when using your arms, such as aching and cramping when knitting, writing or doing other manual tasks.
- Slower growth of your toenails.
- Painful cramping in one or both of your hips, thighs or calf muscles after certain activities, such as walking or climbing stairs
- Sores on your toes, feet or legs that won’t heal
However, If peripheral artery disease persists, pain may also occur while resting or sleeping. It may be strong enough to disturb sleep. Hanging your legs on the edge of your bed or walking around your room may temporarily relieve the pain.
How does this condition affect my body?
A common symptom of PAD is called “claudication,” a medical term that refers to the pain in your leg that accompanies walking or exercise and resting movements. Pain occurs because the muscles in your legs do not get enough oxygen.
The dangers of PAD go beyond the difficulty of walking, and the consequences can be far worse than missing a shopping trip or a golf course. Peripheral artery disease increases the risk of developing a chronic wound in the legs or feet. In severe PAD cases, these sores can grow into areas of dead tissue (gangrene) eventually causing you to have to amputate your foot or leg.
Supervised exercise programs:
A supervised exercise program will improve the symptoms of pain in your legs by walking (claudication), allowing you to move forward. A formal program usually involves walking on a treadmill in a controlled area at least three times a week.
People with PAD should also walk home for at least 30 to 60 minutes daily. The most common medicine is called the “Start / Stop” function:
- Walk until the discomfort reaches a moderate level and then stop.
- Wait until the discomfort goes away completely.
- Start walking again.
For some people with more severe PAD, the claudication symptoms may still cause problems in daily life, even after a few months of exercise and medications. In more severe cases, restoration of blood flow is necessary to relieve pain at rest or to heal a wound. To restore blood flow, the first step is usually an angiogram. A healthcare provider who specializes in invasive vascular procedures can do this.
Minimally invasive or surgical treatments
Extremely advanced PAD that causes severe pain and limited mobility may require endovascular (slightly invasive) or surgical treatment. Other treatments for heart disease also treat peripheral artery disease. Treatment includes:
- Balloon angioplasty: In this procedure, your healthcare provider transfers a small balloon through a catheter into your veins. As the balloon grows inside your vein, it pushes plaque and opens up space inside your vein.
- Stents: These are small metal support coils that your healthcare provider inserts into your veins through a small hole using catheters (long, thin tubes). Once in place, the stents stretch against the inner wall of the blood to support and open it.
- Peripheral artery bypass surgery: Similar to a heart bypass, a surgeon uses a portion of your healthy artery or artery to create a way to pass blood around a blocked area in your leg artery. This is usually reserved for a very heavy PAD.
- Atherectomy: Your healthcare provider uses a catheter with a blade at the end to remove plaque buildup in your blood vessel.
Knowing that you have dangerous features of PAD may encourage you to take action to prevent PAD from developing. The same advice for maintaining a healthy heart applies to maintaining a healthy overall cycle: Control your weight. Eat a low-fat, low-sugar diet that includes at least five servings of fresh fruit and vegetables daily and Do not use tobacco. products.
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