The buildup of fatty plaque deposits in the arteries, also called atherosclerosis, can lead to peripheral artery disease (PAD). Arteries that are narrowed or blocked cause reduced blood flow to the limbs, leading to discomfort, pain, and the risk for serious health complications.
Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease
Seeking treatment for peripheral artery disease is important so that you can manage and treat it properly.
Some key points to keep in mind:
- Some people report no symptoms of PAD before they’re diagnosed, or have only mild sympoms. Regular visits with your primary care doctor can help you identify health risks, even when you’re not experiencing common symptoms.
- PAD is more common in the legs and feet, but it can occur in the arms and hands as well.
Learn to recognize some common symptoms of PAD:
Leg Discomfort and Pain
One of the most common complaints with PAD is leg discomfort and pain while walking. This pain, called claudication, can be felt as muscle cramping that goes away with rest. The pain is usually felt in the area where the artery is clogged or narrowed. Calf pain of this kind is the most common, but people can experience cramping and pain in the hips or thighs as well.
While pain usually goes away with rest, if PAD progresses untreated, people can still feel pain while lying down. Some people even experience enough discomfort that it is difficult to sleep. In fact, some people report a burning or aching feeling in the feet and legs while at rest.
Weakness and Numbness
With PAD, decreased blood flow to the limbs can also cause weakness and numbness, as the amount of blood isn’t enough to keep up with the body’s demands. Muscles may feel heavy or tired, making physical activity difficult or unpleasant.
Another very recognizable symptom of PAD are signs of poor healing on the legs, feet, or toes. Wounds need nutrient-rich, oxygenated blood to promote healing. Decreased blood flow from PAD can negatively affect the healing process. If you have sores or wounds that seem slow to heal on your limbs, talk to your doctor about a PAD screening.
Hair and Nail Growth
Good blood flow is also important for the growth of nails and hair. If you have PAD, you may notice slower growth of your nails (especially toenails), and you may notice slower hair growth or even hair loss on the legs and feet.
Skin Color and Texture
Another visibly noticeable symptom of PAD can be changes in the skin. The skin is the largest organ in the body. When blood flow is decreased it can have an impact on the health and appearance of the skin in affected areas.
Some people notice their skin seems shiny on the legs, or that it appears thinner and more brittle. It may also change in texture, feeling leathery or itchy. Other people may notice a change in skin color on the legs, either with discoloration in spots or redness.
Other symptoms result from poor circulation due to blocked or narrowed arteries. Some people with PAD have a very weak or nearly undetectable pulse in the legs or feet. Some people experience coldness in the lower leg or foot, and may notice it particularly if it’s present on one side, but not the other. Men who have PAD sometimes experience erectile dysfunction as well.
Preventing PAD and Managing Early State PAD
Like many other vascular health conditions, the best way to “treat” PAD is to prevent it altogether. To lower your risk for PAD, there are some basic steps you can take, including:
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Don’t smoke or quit smoking
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a balanced diet low in sodium, added sugars, as well as saturated and trans fats.
- Keep other chronic health conditions well-managed.
If you have noticed PAD symptoms or recieved a diagnosis of early state PAD, you should start treatment with a medical provider. With early stage PAD, your doctor may advise lifestyle changes, supervised exercise therapy, or medications. If the disease has progressed, or if you have additional risk factors, you should consult with a vascular specialist who has experience treating PAD.
Consult a Trusted Vascular Specialist!
At Beach Wellness MD, we’re here to work with you on a comprehensive and personalized PAD treatment plan.
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 today to schedule your appointment.