Peripheral arterial disease is a common circulatory problem whereby narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your arms and legs. Usually, Davenport peripheral arterial disease develops as fat deposits build up within the artery walls. Over time, the arteries become narrow, limiting blood supply to your limbs. Due to insufficient blood flow to the legs, some people with peripheral arterial disease have pain or discomfort in their legs when walking. However, half of the people with this disease have no symptoms. Lifestyle adjustments such as eating a healthy diet, exercising, and quitting tobacco can successfully treat peripheral arterial disease.
Symptoms of peripheral arterial disease
Many people with peripheral arterial disease have mild or no symptoms, but some have claudication or leg pain when walking. Claudication symptoms include cramping or pain in your arms or legs that often occur with walking. The pain usually disappears or reduces after a few minutes of rest or no activity. Most people experience pain in their calf, but you can also experience cramping in the thighs and buttocks. The pain location depends on the site of the narrowed or constricted artery. Claudication ranges from mild discomfort to debilitating pain that makes it hard for you to walk or engage in other forms of physical activity.
The advanced form of the disease causes symptoms such as:
- Coldness in your feet
- A burning or aching pain in your feet and toes, especially at night while lying flat.
- Slower growth of toenails
- Non-healing sores on your legs, feet, and toes.
- Hair loss of slow hair growth in your lower limbs
- Weak pulse in the legs and feet
- Erectile dysfunction
- Color changes on your skin
As the disease progresses, the pain intensifies and may occur even without physical activity. It can be severe enough to disrupt your sleep and interfere with your quality of life. Suspending your legs over the edge of your bed may temporarily alleviate the pain.
Causes of peripheral arterial disease
Peripheral arterial disease often results from atherosclerosis, whereby fatty deposits accumulate in the artery walls, reducing blood flow. Although atherosclerosis is mostly associated with heart problems, the disease also affects arteries throughout the body, especially those supplying blood to your limbs. Other times peripheral arterial disease can result from blood vessel inflammation, radiation exposure, injury to your limbs, and unusual anatomy of ligaments or muscles.
When should I see the doctor?
Seek medical attention if you have got leg pain and other symptoms such as numbness; don’t dismiss them as a standard part of aging. You should also see a healthcare provider for screening if you don’t have symptoms of peripheral artery disease but are over 65 or below 50 but with conditions that increase your risks, such as high blood pressure and obesity.
Preventing peripheral arterial disease
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help you prevent peripheral arterial disease. For example, you need to:
- Eat food low in saturated fats and increase your intake of healthy foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Quit smoking
- Control your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes
- Aim for a minimum of half an hour of exercise several times every week.
If you are susceptible to peripheral arterial disease, visit your healthcare provider at Vein & Cardiovascular Center for screening.