Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
There are several apparent symptoms of coronary artery disease that virtually all of us understand and should not be ignored. Chief among them is angina or chest pain, often a warning sign of an impending heart attack – caused by the blockage of arteries that feed the heart. However, many patients experience a phenomenon known as peripheral artery disease, or PAD, a far less known condition that involves partial occlusion of the arteries in the extremities – the hands and the legs.
Peripheral artery disease comes in several stages, the first being relatively mild. Patients often don’t experience significant problems but may feel pain in their legs or arms during exercise. This is because as the blood flow to the extremities increases, the arteries can’t deliver enough blood (due to blockage), leading to an oxygen deficiency. In the later stages of PAD, more significant symptoms may occur. This can include cold, shiny skin, loss of hair in the extremity, pain in the extremities, even at rest, and more.
When we talk about peripheral artery disease or PAD, we often focus on one of the most common causes of atherosclerosis, cholesterol. After all, excess fat in the bloodstream caused by high blood cholesterol is why plaque begins to form on the walls of the arteries. However, focusing only on cholesterol misses other serious concerns that may increase the risk of PAD, including type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes. Diabetes is a significant concern in the United States and worldwide. In fact, according to the WHO, the incidence of diabetes worldwide almost quadrupled between 1980 and 2014.
If you’ve been following our blog, you know there is much to learn about peripheral artery disease or PAD. The condition is insidious in that its symptoms are not always obvious. When they do become apparent, a patient may have already progressed to a more severe stage requiring significant intervention and ultimately leading to a higher potential for disability.
When we talk about PAD, we usually discuss its detection and treatment. This makes sense because it is estimated that two out of every three PAD patients don’t know they have it. Getting the word out and educating patients about their risks is essential.
However, once we have started treating PAD, many patients rightly want to understand more about how the treatment is going and whether it has been successful. There are a couple of ways to do that.
Coronary artery disease, or CAD, is one of the most common cardiovascular diseases in the world and involves the arteries that transport oxygen-rich blood around the entire body. These incredible delivery vehicles constantly expand and contract, 24 hours a day, to ensure that blood reaches its destinations around the body efficiently. However, as we age, and are largely dependent on our dietary and lifestyle choices, these arteries can begin accumulating plaque deposits. The arteries become progressively narrower, and less blood can reach its destination, the heart. The result significantly increases the risk of a deadly heart attack. When this occlusion happens in the extremities, it is known as peripheral artery disease (PAD). It can cause significant problems in the arms and legs, including, if left untreated, amputation of the affected limb.