If you’ve ever been a part of a rapidly growing business—or a retail outfit around the holidays—you know that it’s not always easy to keep up with demand. Your body’s cells also place high demands on your circulatory system—healthy tissues like muscles, bones, and nerves need oxygen, nutrients, and waste removal services constantly.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD), also sometimes known as peripheral arterial disease or peripheral vascular disease (PVD), is a common circulatory problem that results in reduced blood flow, particularly to your limbs and lower extremities. Your blood can’t keep up with demand, and just like in a business, problems start to occur.

Symptoms of Struggling Circulation

The classic symptom of PAD in your limbs is intermittent claudication. This manifests itself as occasional muscle cramps or other painful symptoms in your legs or hips that appear suddenly, often triggered by activity (such as walking), then disappear again after resting for a few minutes. In severe cases it can be quite painful, making any activity difficult.

Other possible symptoms include coldness or numbness, shiny or discolored skin, slower than normal hair and nail growth on the affected leg, and the development of sores.

Symptoms may be quite mild (or even non-existent) at first, but if the disease progresses you may feel more intense pain, even while resting.

What Causes PAD?

PAD is frequently a natural consequence of atherosclerosis, a condition in which deposits of fat build up in artery walls, narrowing the amount of space for blood to flow and reducing overall circulation. Although atherosclerosis can affect the heart or any artery throughout your body, the peripheral arteries that supply blood to your feet are a frequent target.

Lifestyle factors heavily influence your risk of developing atherosclerosis and therefore PAD. Smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are all significant contributing factors. Other sources of risk include age (especially those over 50), diabetes, or a family history of heart disease.

Because PAD is defined mainly by symptoms, the root cause is occasionally something other than atherosclerosis. Less common causes include inflammation, injury, anatomical deformities, or exposure to radiation.

Why You Should Take Action Now

Many people experience mild or mid-level symptoms for months or even years before addressing the problem, but PAD isn’t something you want to ignore. You might think a little cramping or numbness isn’t a big deal, but there are other problems potentially at work, especially if atherosclerosis is to blame.

First, lower circulation in your legs weakens your immune response, meaning even minor injuries or infections can worsen and spread quickly. This can lead to gangrene (in other words, tissue death) leading to hospitalization or even amputation.

Second, fatty deposits from atherosclerosis is unlikely to be limited to your legs. They can also restrict blood flow to the heart and brain, leading to a significant risk of stroke and heart attack.

Treating PAD

Effective treatment for PAD is built upon a commitment to making healthy lifestyle changes. While some medications or surgical procedures may help, they are unlikely to succeed without a commitment to healthy living first.

 The most important change you can make is to quit smoking. Beyond that, eat a good diet rich in fruits and veggies, get plenty of exercise, and keep your weight within a healthy range. Many people are able to eliminate their symptoms and halt the progression of the disease through lifestyle changes alone.

If you need a little extra help managing cholesterol, blood pressure, or blood sugar, we can help you find the right medications to help. We also might recommend other medications to prevent blood clotting or widen blood vessels.

In some cases, a surgical procedure may be selected to reopen or bypass a severely blocked artery. Possibilities include angioplasty, which uses a small balloon at the end of a catheter to flatten blockage and expand an artery, or bypass surgery using a grafted or synthetic vessel.

By being proactive, seeking help early, and making a commitment today to better health, you can go a long way toward eliminating frustrating PAD symptoms and significantly reducing your risk of heart attack or stroke. Dr. Keith McSpadden can help, too, providing a full assessment of your symptoms and risks and helping you develop a treatment plan that works. To schedule an appointment in Cedar Park or Round Rock, TX, give us a call today at 512-593-2949.