Peripheral Artery Disease Q&A

What is peripheral artery disease?

This is the condition when the arteries have become so narrow that it interrupts the normal flow of blood through your extremities. It is a condition that commonly occurs in the arteries of the legs. An artery is a blood vessel that carries blood throughout the body, and thus if this pathway becomes narrower it compromises your circulation and the ability of your blood to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the cells of your body. 

What is the most common symptom of peripheral artery disease?

The most common symptom that occurs if you have peripheral artery disease (PAD) is painful

cramps in the thighs, hips or calves when exercising.

In general, the symptoms of PAD include:

  • cramps in the legs
  • numbness in the legs
  • one of the legs may feel colder than the other
  • color change of the leg
  • sores on the leg that do not heal well, 

Can a person die from peripheral artery disease?

If the disease is because of plaque buildup in the arteries then it is possible that a person can end up having a stroke or heart attack if arteries on the heart or leading to the brain are obstructed. Obstructed blood flow in the arteries of a leg can mean not enough oxygen is supplied to the cells causing them to die. Critical Limb Ischemia (CLI) can result in which increasing pain and infection occurs in the leg. The infection can lead to gangrene, which can be dangerous since it can lead to body sepsis. Sepsis is a generalized systemic infection of the body which can be deadly. A person may need limbs amputated if gangrene sets in.

What is the main cause of peripheral artery disease?

The main cause of PAD is atherosclerosis which is the condition in which plaque builds up in the arteries. This buildup of plaque causes further inflammation of the walls of the vessel leading to vessel narrowing and blockages. People who have high cholesterol are at increased risk of developing atherosclerosis.

What is the best treatment for peripheral artery disease?

While medication can be prescribed for some patients, often some type of intervention is needed such as an angioplasty or bypass surgery. The condition of your blood vessels can be examined by means of angiography in which doctors inject dye into your blood vessels and then examine them using an imaging technique. In angioplasty the doctor can use a catheter to either open a blood vessel by expanding a balloon and sometimes may also place a stent in place to keep the vessel open. Thrombolytic therapy is when clot-busting medicine is injected into the region where a clot has formed. This therapy is also needed when a stent is placed into a vessel to prevent clots from forming.

Is walking good for PAD?

Generally, walking is helpful if you have PAD since it improves your blood circulation. It is still always a good idea to check with your physician, though, before embarking on any type of exercise program. 

What are the warning signs of clogged arteries?

Warning signs will vary depending on which arteries are clogged, so if an artery in the heart is clogged you can expect to experience chest pain and shortness of breath, while in PAD you will have symptoms such as pain and numbness of the affected limb. If carotid arteries are blocked then you likely will suffer the symptoms of a stroke as blood flow to the brain is compromised.

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