September is PAD awareness month.
What is PAD? Peripheral arterial disease is a chronic, life threatening condition of the the circulatory system. It may also be referred to as claudication, poor circulation or vascular disease and it affects up to 20 million Americans. The cause of PAD is the blockage or narrowing of the blood vessels that transport blood from the heart to the lower extremities or legs. This blockage or narrowing is due to atherosclerosis or the build-up of plaque. Complications of PAD include sores and wounds that if left untreated can result in limb amputation.
So, who is at risk for PAD? There are a number of potential risks factors that all patients should be aware of. Those include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Age > 60
- Family history of vascular disease
PAD can present with a number of different symptoms. Common symptoms that patients experience include:
- Leg pain when walking
- Cramping or pain in the leg muscles brought on with increased physical activity
- Weakness or numbness in the legs
- The legs or feet feeling cold
- A change in color of the legs
- Sores on the legs or feet that do not heal
A healthy lifestyle can help to reduce the likelihood of not developing peripheral arterial disease. Avoiding smoking, increasing exercise and physical activity and eating a diet of nutritious foods can all help to reduce risk.
If you have risk factors for PAD or are experiencing symptoms which could be due to undiagnosed peripheral arterial disease, please reach out to your primary care physician. Patients may also visit the American Heart Association at www.heart.org for additional resources and information.
Dr. Jennifer Teegarden