Peripheral artery disease (also called peripheral arterial disease) is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs. Factors that increase your risk of developing peripheral artery disease include: -Smoking
-Obesity (a body mass index over 30) -High blood pressure (140/90 millimeters of mercury or higher)
-High cholesterol (total blood cholesterol over 240 milligrams per deciliter, or 6.2 millimoles per liter) -Increasing age, especially after reaching 50 years of age -A family history of peripheral artery disease, heart disease or stroke -High levels of homocysteine, a protein component that helps build and maintain tissue
People who smoke or have diabetes have the greatest risk of developing peripheral artery disease due to reduced blood flow.
Peripheral artery disease can be very frustrating, especially when the exercise that will help you get better causes you pain. Don’t get discouraged, however. As you continue exercising, you’ll increase the distance you can walk without pain. The best way to prevent claudication is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. That means: -Quit smoking if you’re a smoker. -If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar in good control. -Exercise regularly. Aim for 30 minutes at least three times a week after you’ve gotten your doctor’s OK. -Lower your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, if applicable. -Eat foods that are low in saturated fat.
-Maintain a healthy weight.
The classic symptoms are pain, achiness, fatigue, burning, or discomfort in the muscles of your feet, calves, or thighs. These symptoms usually appear during walking or exercise and go away after several minutes of rest.
-At first, these symptoms may appear only when you walk uphill, walk faster, or walk for longer distances.
-Slowly, these symptoms come on more quickly and with less exercise.
–Your legs or feet may feel numb when you are at rest. The legs also may feel cool to the touch, and the skin may look pale.
When peripheral artery disease becomes severe, you may have: -Impotence
-Pain and cramps at night -Pain or tingling in the feet or toes, which can be so severe that even the weight of clothes or bed sheets is painful -Pain that is worse when you raise the leg and improves when you dangle your legs over the side of the bed -Skin that looks dark and blue -Sores that do not heal
Peripheral artery disease can be very frustrating, especially when the exercise that will help you get better causes you pain. Don’t get discouraged, however. As you continue exercising, you’ll increase the distance you can walk without pain. You may find it helpful to raise the head of your bed by four to six inches (10 to 15 centimeters), because keeping your legs below the level of your heart usually lessens pain.
Another tip for reducing your symptoms is to avoid cold temperatures as much as possible. If you can’t avoid the cold, be sure to dress in warm layers. Alternative remedies for PAD- The blood-thinning effects of ginkgo may allow people with intermittent claudication to walk longer distances with less pain. However, this herbal remedy can cause bleeding when taken in high doses, and it could be dangerous if paired with anti-platelet medications, including aspirin, which are commonly prescribed to people with PAD. Talk to your doctor before you consider taking ginkgo for relief from leg pain.
The number of people with peripheral artery disease — a debilitating condition that can lead to heart attack and stroke — rose nearly 24 percent, from 164 million to 202 million worldwide, over the past decade.
An analysis from 2000 to 2010 found that although rates of peripheral artery disease are increasing in all parts of the world, 70 percent (140 million) of sufferers live in low- or middle-income countries, mainly in southeast Asia (54 million) and western Pacific regions (46 million).
Peripheral artery disease is caused by plaque accumulation in arteries that carry blood to the limbs. The condition increases the risk of heart attack and stroke and severely limits walking ability.
The analysis of published studies on peripheral artery disease also revealed that the number of people with the condition increased nearly 29 percent in low-income countries and by 13 percent in high-income countries, mainly in Europe, where there were 40.5 million cases in 2010. Longer life expectancy and changing lifestyles appear to be driving this dramatic rise. There was a more than 35 percent increase in cases among people older than 80, and peripheral artery disease now affects one in 10 people aged 70 and one in six people older than 80.
Rates of the disease are higher among men in high-income countries than men in low- and middle-income countries, and it may be more common in women — especially younger women — than in men in low- and middle-income countries, according to the findings, which were published July 31 in the journal The Lancet.
Many of the main risk factors for peripheral artery disease — such as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol — are the same as those for other major cardiovascular diseases and can be prevented and treated, the analysis confirmed.
Peripheral artery disease happens when fatty deposits build up in arteries outside the heart, usually the arteries supplying fresh oxygen and blood to the arms, legs and feet. Is PAD dangerous or life threatening?
Yes, PAD is dangerous because these blockages can restrict circulation to the limbs and organs. Without adequate blood flow, the kidneys, legs, arms and feet suffer damage. Left untreated, the tissue can die or harbor infection such as gangrene.PAD Does PAD cause additional health problems?
PAD may be the first warning sign of atherosclerosis– chronic fatty deposit build-ups throughout your arteries. The whole circulatory system, including your heart and brain, are at risk when arteries are blocked and narrowed. Fatty deposits also increase the risk for vascular inflammation and blood clots that can block the blood supply and cause tissue death. PAD is a life-threatening condition that can be managed or even reversed with proper care.
While many people with peripheral artery disease have mild or no symptoms, some people have leg pain when walking (intermittent claudication). Intermittent claudication symptoms include muscle pain or cramping in your legs or arms that’s triggered by activity, such as walking, but disappears after a few minutes of rest. The location of the pain depends on the location of the clogged or narrowed artery. Calf pain is the most common location.
The severity of intermittent claudication varies widely, from mild discomfort to debilitating pain.
Peripheral artery disease symptoms include: -Painful cramping in your hip, thigh or calf muscles after activity, such as walking or climbing stairs (intermittent claudication) -Leg numbness or weakness -Coldness in your lower leg or foot, especially when compared with the other side -Sores on your toes, feet or legs that won’t heal -A change in the color of your legs -Hair loss or slower hair growth on your feet and legs -Slower growth of your toenails -Shiny skin on your legs -No pulse or a weak pulse in your legs or feet -Erectile dysfunction in men
A diagnosis of PAD indicates that you’re at risk not only for mobility problems but also for heart attack and stroke. Here’s how you can reduce your risk: -Get exercise. If intermittent claudication makes it hard to walk or bike, you can increase your leg strength and walking speed with a targeted exercise program. You may be able to exercise harder and longer if you take a medication that increases blood supply to the legs. Two such medications have been approved for PAD: cilostazol (Pletal), which dilates blood vessels; and pentoxifylline (Trental, Pentoxil, Pentopak), which improves blood flow. -Don’t smoke. In the Women’s Health Study mentioned earlier, quitters reduced their risk for PAD by 60% within 10 years. -Manage chronic conditions. Managing conditions that contribute to PAD can help reduce symptoms and reduce your chances of a heart attack or stroke. Lose weight if necessary, and make sure blood sugar is under control if you have diabetes. Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs and blood pressure–lowering medications are effective in treating PAD as well as CAD. -Take medications to prevent blood clots. Low-dose aspirin or clopidogrel (Plavix) is strongly recommended. These drugs will not alleviate symptoms of PAD or arrest its progression, but they can reduce the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular events by preventing the formation of blood clots in narrowed arteries. -Don’t wear compression stockings. Compression stockings further impede blood flow in people with PAD.
Treatment for peripheral artery disease has two major goals. The first is to manage symptoms, such as leg pain, so that you can resume physical activities. The second is to stop the progression of atherosclerosis throughout your body to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. You may be able to accomplish these goals with lifestyle changes. If you smoke, quitting is the single most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of complications. If lifestyle changes are not enough, you need additional medical treatment. Your doctor may prescribe medicine to prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and control pain and other symptoms.