Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a disease that involves the arteries (blood vessels) throughout the body yet does not involve the arteries to the heart (called coronary heart disease) or to the brain (called cerebrovascular disease). It is commonly found on the legs (that causes pain while walking and severe cramping when walking or exercising), but can be also found on the arms, neck or kidneys.
The major contributor to this disease is cigarette smoking. Other contributors can be the following:
- High blood pressure
- Kidney problems
- High cholesterol
It usually targets persons above 40 years old, which occurs due to the presence of atherosclerosis in their bodies (the narrowing of various blood vessels). The disease can also form in the body from other complications such as:
- Artery spasms
- Blood clots
- Fibromuscular dysplasia
There are no other types of PAD that are currently known in the medical field.
Below are some of the symptoms of PAD:
- Claudication (severe pain while walking)
- Painful cramping in one or both hips, thighs or calf muscles after activities
- Numbness or weakness of legs
- Cold feeling in the lower leg or foot
- Sores on legs, toes or feet that do not heal
- Hair loss or slow hair growth on legs and feet
- Slow growth of toenails
- Shiny skin on legs
- No or weak pulse on legs or feet
- Erectile dysfunction in men
For Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), various tests would be given to the patient with PAD. Below are some of the tests:
- Physical exams
- Confirmatory exams for PAD
- Decreased or absence of the pulse
- Muscle atrophy or wasting
- Noticeable blueness of the skin
- Decreased temperature (coolness) in the affected area
- Thickened nails
- Smooth or shiny skin
- Hair loss
- Beuger’s test
If the confirmatory exams yielded positive, an Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI) test will soon follow. If the ABI test results show abnormalities in the patient’s blood, a Doppler ultrasound test will next take place, or an angiography instead if the former is not readily available.
Another test that can be taken is the Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) that provides much better results than the previous two tests mentioned.
There are various treatments that can be done, depending on the severity of the disease. Below are those treatments:
- Changing the lifestyle of the patient by stopping smoking, and doing regular exercises as prescribed by the doctor
- Management of diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and antiplatelet drugs such as aspirin and clopidogrel
- If needed or if the symptoms persists even after doing the above, revascularization would be required. This consists of various surgeries such as angioplasty (surgeries on the affected arteries), atherectomy (removal of plaques inside arteries), vascular Bypass (cutting off the affected areas of arteries), amputation for infected areas with gangrene to prevent sepsis (life-threatening illness), thrombolysis, and thrombectomy (for cases of arterial thrombosis or embolism).