What is Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)? Valley Vascular Associates
A normal artery is a smooth tube that carries blood from the heart to the other areas of the body. When plaque (atherosclerosis) and calcium builds up in the wall of the artery, it can cause blockages in the circulation to the area supplied by the artery. Outside the brain and heart, those blockages are called peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
What are the symptoms of PAD?
PAD generally refers to blockages in the arteries to the legs. These blockages can be present without any symptoms, in which case no surgical treatment is recommended. Patients with the medical conditions listed above should be careful to control them with medications. In particular, patients who smoke should stop smoking. However, sometimes these blockages can worsen to produce symptoms such as pain with walking (claudication), pain at rest, or even ulcers or gangrene.
Claudication is pain in the legs when walking that is caused by blockages in the arteries in the legs. This pain usually occurs in the calves but can also occur in the thighs or buttocks. It is usually a gripping, “charley horse”-type pain that goes away when the patient stops walking. Many conditions cause pain in the legs, and claudication is one of them. Other conditions that can cause pain in the legs include arthritis and nerve damage including sciatica and neuropathy. A careful interview and physical examination by a vascular specialist will help determine the cause of pain. If the pain is caused by blockages in the arteries to the legs (PAD), treatment will depend on how severe symptoms are. If the pain does not severely restrict activities (non-disabling), then medical treatment is recommended. Medical treatment consists of smoking cessation and controlling the risk factors (see list above) that can cause PAD to worsen. If the symptoms of claudication are severe (disabling), then evaluation by an arteriogram is appropriate.
Ulcers or even gangrene in the foot can also develop because the blockages in the arteries in the leg are so severe that the normal tissue in the foot cannot stay alive. This is an urgent situation that requires an evaluation by a vascular surgeon.
For more information go to www.vvahealth.com or call us at 661-505-7079.
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