6 Key Warning Signs Of Peripheral Artery Disease That You Need To Know

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a common circulatory problem affecting many people, particularly those over 50. In fact, it's estimated that PAD affects up to 12 million Americans, which is more than those currently living with cancer.

PAD is caused by a build-up of plaque in the arteries that carry blood to the legs and feet, which can reduce blood flow, resulting in a range of symptoms. This build-up is usually the result of high cholesterol, which in turn triggers high blood pressure. But the risk of PAD also increases through smoking, long periods of inactivity, obesity and diabetes.  

Intermittent Claudication is probably the most prevalent symptom of PAD and is identified by discomfort or cramping in the legs or hips that happens when walking or exercising. Any pain typically ceases when resting. Claudication occurs because the muscles in the legs require more oxygen and nutrients during physical activity, but the narrowed or blocked arteries cannot supply enough blood to meet the demand.

Other symptoms include numbness, weakness, or tingling in the legs, particularly in the feet and toes. You may also experience a burning sensation or a feeling of heaviness or fatigue in the legs. These symptoms may occur at rest or during physical activity.

As PAD progresses, it can lead to complications such as slow-healing wounds or sores on the feet and legs, skin discoloration, hair loss, and weak or absent pulses in the legs or feet. PAD can cause tissue death (gangrene) and potential amputation in severe cases.

For these reasons, it's essential to understand the key warning signs of peripheral artery disease so that they can be treated before they worsen. Let's take a closer look.

#1 - Pain in the legs when walking or exercising

One of the most common symptoms of PAD is pain, cramping, or tiredness when walking, climbing stairs, or exercising. Most of the time, this pain will disappear when the leg is at rest. So, if you experience intermittent discomfort, you should talk to your doctor.

#2 - Numbness or weakness in the legs.

 As peripheral artery disease progresses, you may experience muscle atrophy (numbness or weakness in your legs), particularly in the feet and toes. Fatigue is caused by hypoperfusion – a lack of blood supply to the muscle. Any reduction of blood flow to an active muscle can precipitate fatigue. Hence the feelings of numbness or weakness in the lower limb area.

#3 - Slow-healing wounds or sores

Reduced blood flow caused by peripheral artery disease can also slow down the healing of wounds or sores on your feet and legs. Because vital oxygen and nutrients in the blood no longer reach extremities, any recovery from wounds on legs, ankles and feet can be slow.

If you experience:

they are all symptoms of slow wound healing and, in turn, could be a key warning sign of peripheral artery disease. 

#4 - Skin discoloration

Another effect of PAD is the skin on your feet and legs can become discolored. High pressure caused by poor circulation can cause blood vessels to burst near the skin's surface. These, in turn, while feeling uncomfortable, may change the appearance of the leg with colors ranging from pale or bluish to dark red or black.

You must visit your doctor if you notice any change in lower limb skin tone or anything unusual.

#5  - Hair loss

In the same way that reduced blood flow causes numbness and slow wound healing, it can also trigger hair loss on your feet and legs. As mentioned, inadequate blood flow robs the body of oxygen and blood necessary for nourishment and replenishment. Because hair follicles on the legs and feet may be deprived of nutrients, any hair will inevitably stop growing. When hair ceases to get the replenishment it needs, it will eventually die and fall out.

#6 Weak or absent pulse in the legs or feet

When fatty deposits build up in the artery walls of the leg, they become considerably narrower, thus restricting the flow of blood into the extremities. This can result in a weakened or absent pulse in the affected leg, often accompanied by a coldness to touch or an aching sensation.

If left, a weakened or non-existent pulse could irreparably damage the skin tissue causing life-threatening conditions such as gangrene. Therefore, if you experience any change in leg temperature or sensation, contact your doctor immediately.

So there you have it, six vital warning signs of peripheral artery disease you need to know.

The issue with PAD is that most early-stage symptoms like leg pain, numbness and cramping only occur during movement and tend to ease off when resting. Therefore, any pain inconsistencies may prevent people from seeking medical advice sooner. 

Hopefully, this post will alert more people to the problem of PAD enabling medical practitioners to prevent complications early on and improve a patient's quality of life.

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, talk to the team at MINT STL. Dr Akinwande is a highly experienced, board-certified vascular and interventional radiologist. He will help alleviate the problems of PAD using the latest non-surgical techniques. 

Call 314 255 2204 or book an appointment at one of our three offices.

 

Photo attribution: image by pressfoto on Freepik

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