It has been estimated that around 6.5 million adults in the United States have peripheral artery disease (PAD). However, because of the insidious nature of the disease, the true count is probably much higher if undiagnosed cases are taken into account.
At Cardiovascular Institute of America, with offices in Citrus Park, Tampa, and Lutz, Florida, Dr. Muthu Velusamy can help diagnose peripheral artery disease and provide appropriate treatment based on its advancement.
How do your peripheral arteries work ?
Peripheral arteries are the smaller arteries in your body. Their job is to carry blood from the heart into the rest of your body, all the way to the tops of your fingers and toes. If you have peripheral artery disease (PAD), these tiny arteries get narrower on the inside because of buildup of arterial plaque.
PAD, causes a narrowing of the arteries and decreases the amount of room through which blood may flow, making it harder for your heart to pump blood through them. The result is increased blood pressure and the risk for blood clots, and the tendency for wounds to fester instead of heal.
Left undiagnosed and untreated, PAD can lead to other issues, including:
- Heart disease
- Cardiovascular events
- Gangrene and even limb amputations
Risk factors for PAD or atherosclerosis include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Family history of PAD
Understanding what subtle signs to look for and understanding your risk for PAD could save your life.
4 subtle signs of PAD
The worst thing about PAD may be that in many people; it simply doesn’t present with any symptoms at all. Getting regular check-ups with your doctor and having appropriate PAD screenings is critical, especially as you age and if you have multiple risk factors.
If you have any of the following, you might want to ask for a PAD screening:
1. Leg pain, weakness, numbness, or restless leg
Pain in your calf muscles, especially when you are walking or exercising (known as claudication) can be an early sign of PAD. The arteries are struggling to manage the blood flow, which can cause a cramping feeling. Weakness or numbness is also a sign that something is wrong.
2. Cold that centers on just one limb
PAD doesn’t attack in a symmetrical fashion. One extremity might be affected while the other is not. If you’re constantly feeling like one leg is consistently colder than the other, it might be a red flag for PAD.
3. Changes to your body
Odd symptoms of PAD that are often overlooked or put down to age are thinning hair on the legs and discolored or slow-growing toenails. Paying close attention to your legs and feet can often alert you to changes that should be reported to your doctor. If you are a man, you may experience an issue a little higher up: PAD is also known to cause erectile dysfunction.
4. A weak pulse or slow-healing wound
A weak pulse in one or both legs is a sign that blood isn’t moving freely or quickly. Additionally, slow-to-heal wounds can mean your circulation is too poor for your blood to carry needed healing factors to the area. If you are diabetic, this is a double concern, as wounds that won’t heal can lead to gangrene and the need for amputation of necrotic tissue.
Screening for PAD
If you fit into any of the following categories, you need to talk to your doctor about screening for PAD:
- Healthy but over 70
- A smoker or diabetic over 50
- Anyone with a family history of PAD
- Someone with symptoms of PAD, regardless of age or health
If you’re at risk for PAD, are experiencing symptoms of PAD, or want to learn more about your circulatory health, you can reach the Cardiovascular Institute of America at 813-610-9510, or you can request an appointment online.