Know the Risks and Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease
- Posted on: Aug 30 2017
Heart health is integral to optimal circulation. Blood is pumped from the heart, out into the body via a system of arteries and veins. When the arteries to the extremities, the head, and the stomach become narrow, a person may receive a diagnosis of peripheral artery disease, or PAD.
Statistics tell us that the symptoms of PAD may be mistaken for something other than a heart condition. This condition is also often missed by healthcare providers. PAD requires diagnosis and treatment, though, or a patient may suffer gangrene in the arms or legs, which may require amputation. The risk of heart attack and stroke are also higher in a person with peripheral artery disease.
Why it’s so Easy to Miss
The reason that patients and their doctors may miss peripheral artery disease is that, by and large, the symptoms of narrowed arteries occur intermittently. Discomfort may occur when walking or performing another type of physical activity. When narrowing is mild, there may be no pain stemming from the affected artery. Symptoms that may occur include:
- Weakness or numbness in the leg.
- Painful cramps in the calf, thigh, or hip during physical activity (even just walking).
- Discoloration or a shiny appearance in the skin on one or both legs.
- Persistent sores on the toes, feet, or legs.
- A cold sensation in one foot or lower leg.
Individuals who have certain risk factors for peripheral artery disease may be screened for this condition during routine cardiac check-ups. Screening may become routine after age 50, and also for patients who smoke or who have diabetes. High cholesterol may increase the likelihood of screening, as may a family history of heart disease, stroke, or peripheral artery disease.
Here’s the Good News
Matters of heart health can be somewhat frightening. No one likes to think that they may have a risk for cardiac disease. We like to offer information, and also hope. In this case, hope comes from knowing that peripheral artery disease is most often secondary to atherosclerosis, the condition of plaque buildup in the walls of certain arteries. We usually hear about the direct heart-effects of atherosclerosis, but this condition also affects other areas, as in the case of PAD.
Like with many cardiovascular conditions, you can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and its resulting peripheral artery disease with healthy lifestyle habits including exercise and living a smoke-free life.
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Do you have questions about heart health, diagnostic testing, or treatment for heart conditions? Call 516-437-5600. We’re here to help you.