Peripheral Arterial Disease, or PAD, is narrowing of the blood vessels that lead to the outermost parts of the body, such as the lower legs. Blame it on atherosclerosis – the buildup of excess cholesterol in the peripheral arteries. That buildup of cholesterol, or plaque, makes it hard for blood to flow freely to the lower limbs. The blood vessels are too narrow. Reduced blood supply causes problems that range from muscle cramping to limb amputation.
Here are some fast facts about PAD that threatens the health of your legs and feet:
- PAD affects people over aged 50, current or former smokers, diabetics, those with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and people with a family history of PAD.
- Symptoms include lower leg pain, cramping, aching, or heaviness when walking or climbing stairs; wounds that are slow to heal or don’t heal at all; one foot that feels colder than the other; lack of hair growth on toes; discoloration of legs or feet.
- Leg pain subsides when you’re not active. However, in advanced cases of PAD, the opposite may be true – leg pain is present even when you’re at rest.
- If not treated, PAD can starve your legs of vital, healing blood and lead to skin breakdown, gangrene, and amputation.
- PAD puts you at a higher risk for blood clotting, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Early treatment for PAD is extremely important. Report unexplained lower leg pain to Fairfax County board-certified podiatrist Dr. Kenneth R. Wilhelm. As a podiatrist, Dr. Wilhelm is an expert in all medical issues of the lower legs and can diagnosis PAD before it becomes debilitating. Early treatments can include weight loss, improved diet, exercises, and medications to control diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Advanced cases may require surgery to open up the narrowed blood vessels.