What you should know about peripheral artery disease

What you should know about peripheral artery disease

Peripheral artery disease is a potentially serious condition that can cause leg pain and other symptoms. If left untreated, it can lead to major problems, including possible loss of a limb. And it often means you’re at risk of even bigger medical issues, such as a heart attack or stroke.

What is peripheral artery disease? Essentially, it’s what happens when arteries outside your heart become blocked by fatty deposits and sometimes blood clots. That blockage means less oxygen-rich blood is able to make it through to keep your body healthy.

Some people with peripheral artery disease have no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they will often show up in a leg and may include:

  • Leg pain, often in the calf, that gets better when you rest and worse when you’re active
  • Sores that don’t heal
  • Weakness or numbness in the leg
  • Slower than usual growth of toenails and leg hair or actual loss of leg hair
  • Shiny-looking skin on the leg
  • Changes in skin color
  • Erectile dysfunction in men
  • Coldness in the leg, especially if one leg is colder than the other

One of the biggest risk factors for developing peripheral artery disease is smoking. A smoker’s risk of developing peripheral artery disease is four timesthat of a nonsmoker. Other risk factors include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Age (people over 50 are at higher risk)
  • A family history of peripheral artery disease

If you are at high risk for peripheral artery disease, your doctor may want to check for it even if you don’t have symptoms. One fairly simple test is called the ankle-brachial index, which compares your blood pressure in your arm with that in your ankle.

Doctors sometimes use a number of other methods to diagnose peripheral artery disease, including blood tests, ultrasounds, or computed tomography (CT) exams.

If you do have peripheral artery disease, you may be able to control it with lifestyle changes and medicine. Treatments that may be recommended include:

  • Stopping smoking
  • Exercising
  • Eating a diet low in saturated fats and trans fats and rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Controlling diabetes if you have it
  • Taking medicine to lower cholesterol or blood pressure
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

In some cases, you will need further treatment. Your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure called angioplasty to unblock the blood vessel

If you have questions about issues involving blood vessels, feel free to contact us at Palm Vein Center. 

Talk to our team to learn more about the best conservative and interventional treatment options for your vein condition.

The advice and information contained in this article are for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.

For more information on vein diseases and the treatments provided by the specialists at Palm Vein Center or to make an appointment, call 623-201-4777. We look forward to meeting you!