Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition in which plaque buildup in the peripheral arteries reduces blood circulation to the limbs (most commonly the lower legs) and increases the risk for major cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke, as well as the risk of amputation. Today, PAD affects more than 20 million Americans. Yet, the disease is unknown to many, and the severity of its potential complications are frequently underestimated.
What are the Signs & Symptoms of PAD?
The signs and symptoms of PAD can be notoriously difficult to spot. In fact, many patients report no symptoms at all. It is for this very reason that everyone should be aware of the slight changes that can indicate a problem with circulation in the legs. These clues can offer just the insight needed to detect PAD early and minimize its impact on both the heart and limbs. Among all possible signs of PAD, the following 5 are the most common:
- Leg Pain - Leg pain while exercising, or intermittent claudication, is the most common symptom of PAD. This pain is most common in the calves and occurs when the muscles do not receive enough blood flow during exertion.
- Poor Nail & Hair Growth - Visible changes in the lower legs and feet are another potential sign of PAD. In addition to slow hair and nail growth, the skin may appear shiny and change in color.
- Slow & Non-Healing Wounds - Sores and wounds require adequate blood flow in order to heal properly. When a patient has PAD, wounds to the feet or lower legs may take an exceptionally long time to heal.
- Cold Feet & Lower Legs - Maintaining body temperature depends on strong circulation. Plaque buildup in the legs of PAD patients can reduce circulation and result in a reduced temperature of the affected limbs.
- Weak Pulse in the Legs or Feet - A physician can help determine if PAD may be an issue simply by checking a patient's pulse in the legs. Blocked arteries and reduced blood flow mean that the pulse is likely to be weaker here than in higher points such as the wrist. Likewise, a simple test to measure blood pressure in the legs known as an ankle brachial index (ABI) can offer even more valuable insight.
Treating PAD in Louisiana
The cardiologists at Cardiovascular Institute of the South are passionate about the prevention and early diagnosis of PAD. If you believe that you may be at risk for peripheral artery disease or experience any symptoms, click the button below to request an appointment one of our skilled cardiologists near you.