Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a health condition that occurs when the buildup of plaque in the arteries causes reduced or blocked blood flow to the limbs like the arms, legs, and feet. But PAD doesn’t only affect the limbs. Without proper treatment, PAD can worsen and have a wide-ranging impact on different systems of the body.
How PAD Affects Limbs and Other Parts of the Body
Plaque can be made up of different substances found in the blood like fibrous tissues, calcium, fat, and cholesterol. When plaque builds up in the arteries—a condition called atherosclerosis—it causes the arteries to narrow and harden. This process can not only reduce blood flow to the limbs, but to other organs as well.
Leg Pain and Poor Circulation
When blood flow is reduced to the peripheral limbs, most commonly affecting the legs, it means that the limbs are not getting as much oxygen-rich blood that they need to stay healthy and function properly. This can result in pain, aching, cramping, numbness, and weakness. This pain, called claudication, usually occurs in the thigh, calf, or buttocks and may be experienced with physical activity. It can be present even with mild or regular daily physical activities like walking or climbing stairs.
In early stages, claudication symptoms may only happen when you’re walking and then may go away with rest. But, if PAD progresses, the pain can be present with slight physical activity or even at rest, preventing you from sleep.
Severe PAD can lead to critical limb ischemia (CLI), which is a serious blockage in arteries of the lower extremities that vastly reduces blood flow. It isn’t as common as claudication but can lead to very serious problems like non-healing sores and wounds in the legs and feet. Complications can lead to dangerous infections and the risk of amputation.
Heart and Brain Health
PAD increases the risk for serious cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke.. The risk is increased for those who have more advanced forms of the disease.
A sudden narrowing or blockage of a coronary artery that blocks oxygen delivery to the heart is the most common cause of a heart attack. Patients with PAD are at an increased risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) and heart attacks.
There are two types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic is the type of stroke associated with PAD and this type makes up about 80 percent of all strokes. Similar to a heart attack, an ischemic stroke happens when there is a sudden blockage of an artery to the brain. Arterial blockages can lead to decreased blood flow to the brain’s cells leading to cell injury and stroke.
Research has shown a connection between peripheral artery disease and chronic kidney disease. It does appear that chronic kidney disease increases the risk for developing PAD, so talk to your doctor about your risk for PAD if you have kidney disease.
The health of your arteries has an impact in many parts of the body. Men who have narrowed or blocked arteries from PAD may have diminished blood flow to the penis, resulting in erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction, even without other symptoms, may be a sign of vascular disease. Up to 70 percent of men who experience erectile dysfunction have a vascular disease, so if you have symptoms, you may want to talk to a vascular expert.
Peripheral Artery Disease Treatment Options
Treatment for PAD by an experienced vascular specialist is key to reducing risks to other body systems. At its early stages, PAD may be managed through dietary changes, exercise therapy and medications. If PAD has progressed, there are minimally-invasive procedures that can help treat PAD.
Minimally-Invasive Vascular Procedures for PAD
There are several minimally-invasive procedures we offer at Beach Wellness MD for people with peripheral artery disease. Our vascular specialists are experts in the care of PAD and offer same-day treatment options such as atherectomy, balloon angioplasty, and stenting.
Consult a Trusted Vascular Specialist!
At Beach Wellness MD, we are trusted experts in the treatment of peripheral artery disease. We are focused on restoring health and quality of life for our patients. Dr. Ali Golshan, MD, is a leading vascular expert who specializes in PAD and other vascular conditions. Dr. Golshan emphasizes one-on-one treatment and designs personalized care plans for each patient.
Contact us online or call us at (310) 620-1851 today to schedule your appointment.