Also known as peripheral arterial disease, PAD is a condition that can occur when the arteries become hardened or blocked. Plaque buildup within the arteries can restrict healthy blood flow and lead to serious problems such as blood clots. The signs of PAD can range from leg pain to tingling in the feet and even coldness in an affected extremity. If left unaddressed, PAD may eventually lead to heart attack, stroke, or limb loss. Learn more about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of PAD.
What Is PAD and What Are Its Symptoms?
One of the most common causes of PAD is atherosclerosis, which occurs with the buildup of plaque in the arteries. As the plaque hardens, it can reduce the flow of oxygenated blood to the tissues, increasing the risk of a medical emergency such as myocardial infarction or stroke. In addition, by prohibiting the amount of oxygen-rich blood traveling to the tissues, it can also result in the death of tissue and potential limb loss and amputation.
There are several symptoms associated with peripheral arterial disease. Unfortunately, because many of the signs are initially mild in discomfort, they can be easy to ignore. One of the symptoms of PAD is leg pain that does not go away after exercise has stopped. This can manifest as calf pain or cramping when walking that suddenly clears up with rest. Another PAD symptom includes a feeling of pins and needles at the bottom of the foot. Thankfully, this improves with walking. In addition, feeling coldness in the lower leg and foot can be another sign of PAD. And, because the tissues aren’t receiving enough oxygen, slowed toenail and hair growth can occur as well. In serious cases, ulcers and open wounds may appear at the bottom of the foot with no signs of healing.
Several techniques can be utilized to diagnose PAD. These may include angiography, a procedure in which contrast dye is injected into blood vessels to monitor blood flow. An ankle-brachial index, also known as ABI, can also be used to measure blood pressure in the ankle and compare it to blood pressure in the arm. Also, an ultrasound can be utilized to observe blood flow in different arterial areas, locating potential issues. These may lead to angiography, a procedure in which contrast dye is injected into the blood vessels to monitor blood flow and determine potential blockages.
How Is PAD Treated?
Once a patient is diagnosed with PAD, a specialist can review the patient’s condition to determine the most effective treatment. For extreme blockages in the limbs, also known as critical limb ischemia, less-invasive options may include stents, angioplasty, laser atherectomy, balloons, and several other effective procedures. Cardiovascular Institute of the South was also among the first to utilize many new devices and techniques to treat PAD, such as the lithotripsy balloon by Shockwave Medical and radial-to-peripheral procedures done through the wrist.
Have You Experienced Leg Pain or Other PAD Symptoms?
If you’re suffering from any of the symptoms associated with PAD, schedule an appointment with us. This condition gets worse if left untreated, so it is important not to delay care. Our trained specialists can work with you to diagnose your condition and help you find effective treatment.