What is peripheral artery disease?
Peripheral artery disease is a disease characterized by blockage of the arteries that do not supply the brain or heart. This disease occurs when the arteries narrow and harden (arteriosclerosis), hindering blood circulation. Although it generally affects the legs, other arteries can also be affected.
In any case, it is a pathology that especially affects men over the age of 50.
Symptoms of the disease
Generally, people suffering from peripheral artery disease do not have any specific symptoms. However, some symptoms such as the following may appear:
- Painful cramps in the muscles when performing activities.
- Weakness in the legs
- Changes in skin color
- Lower temperature in the legs
- Poor toenail growth
- Poor leg hair growth
- Erectile dysfunction
Medical tests for PAD
Some of the tests performed by your health care provider to diagnose peripheral artery disease may include:
- Physical examination to check for a weak pulse under a narrow area of the artery and for whistling sounds that can be heard with a stethoscope. In this way, the physician can check for decreased blood pressure in the affected extremity.
- Ankle-brachial index (ABI) to check the blood pressure in the ankle with the blood pressure in the arm. The physician may use a regular blood pressure cuff and an ultrasound device to assess blood pressure and flow.
- Ultrasound to assess blood flow through the vessels and identify blocked arteries.
- Angiography: a dye is injected into the blood vessels so the doctor can see the blood flow through the arteries.
- Blood tests, which are done to measure cholesterol and triglyceride levels to screen for diabetes.
What causes peripheral artery disease?
The risk factors that can cause this disease are:
- High cholesterol levels
- Heart disease
- Hemodialysis patients
Peripheral artery disease is a vascular pathology that occurs when blood flow is narrowed due to excess cholesterol and other types of fat that accumulate on the walls of the arteries. This accumulation of plaque that forms blocks blood flow to the arms and legs.
The cause of lipid plaque formation is unknown, but there are some conditions that increase the risk of lipid plaques, such as being a smoker or ex-smoker, as well as being diabetic and having high blood pressure or cholesterol. In the worst cases, and when no attention is paid to these factors, it can degenerate into amputation of the foot or leg.
Can it be prevented?
To prevent peripheral artery disease, a series of guidelines should be followed based on maintaining a healthy lifestyle:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Practicing sports regularly
- Not smoking
- Eating foods low in saturated fats
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Control blood sugar if you have diabetes.
Treatments for peripheral artery disease
There are different types of medications used to treat this disease. These may include medications to lower cholesterol, for high blood pressure, to control blood sugar levels, to prevent blood clots. There are also medications to relieve symptoms.
In some cases, surgery or angioplasty may be required. During an angioplasty, a small hollow tube (catheter) is inserted through a blood vessel into the affected artery. A small balloon is then inflated to reopen the artery, flatten the blockage and stretch the artery. This increases blood flow. Other procedures may include bypass surgery and thrombolytic therapy.
Which specialist treats it?
The specialist in charge of treating PAD is the specialist in Angiology and Vascular Surgery.