Individuals who suffer from Periphral Artery Disease (PAD) experience painful symptoms resulting from narrowed arteries in the feet. However, PAD pain doesn't have to be permanent. Treatment is relatively straightforward, and with the help of an experienced podiatrist and lifestyle changes, patients with PAD can get back on their feet with significantly less pain. Read on to learn factors that could increase your risk of developing PAD and how our expert podiatrists at Martin Foot and Ankle treat the disease.
What is PAD?
The cause of the narrowed arteries in patients with PAD is plaque (made of cholesterol, fat, and other substances) buildup along the artery walls. The inner walls of these vessels are normally smooth for optimal blood flow, but plaque buildup creates rougher surfaces for additional plaque to collect. As blood flow efficiency decreases, the effects of PAD become noticeable. In addition, reduced blood flow means that your feet are receiving less oxygen, making it difficult for the lower limbs to receive nourishment. Symptoms of PAD can include:
- Weakness or numbness in the feet
- Burning or aching in the lower limbs
- Skin that is cold to the touch
- Redness or skin discoloration
- Sores that do not heal or heal very slowly
- Hair loss on the toes
Risk Factors for PAD
Certain factors can increase your likelihood of developing PAD. You must speak to your doctor and monitor your condition if any of the following play a role in your medical history:
- Overweight or Obese
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Advanced Age
- Family History of Heart Disease
If left unchecked, PAD can worsen over time and can be detrimental to your long-term health.
Doctors can diagnose PAD with various tests, including a blood test, ankle-brachial index (ABI), lower-extremity ultrasound, or angiography.
The treatment of PAD is a two-step process. First, after an initial exam, your podiatrist will want to address and manage pain. The next and more significant step is to implement lifestyle changes that will stop the buildup of plaque and allow for more blood flow to the lower limbs. These lifestyle changes can include quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy diet, and exercising more. Even though exercise may be painful at first, sticking to a routine through physical therapy or a doctor’s supervision will allow your body to get used to increased activity and eventually become less painful.
For patients with high cholesterol or diabetes, correct management of these conditions can significantly affect their severity, whether through medication or lifestyle changes. Keeping track of sugar levels and medications is the best way to manage complications from diabetes. If you have been diagnosed with high cholesterol or diabetes, it is important to continue proper treatments alongside treatments for PAD.
There are also surgical options available for individuals with advanced PAD, depending on the blockage type and location. Angioplasty uses a stent to open up the artery and allow blood to flow freely once again. Bypass surgery creates a path around a blocked artery, and a blood-thinning drug can be injected directly into the affected area for patients with a blood clot.
If you are experiencing foot pain, numbness, wounds, or any symptoms connected to Peripheral Artery Disease, schedule an appointment at one of our five offices in Central PA. Our podiatrists can help manage your condition and provide a custom treatment plan to ease pain and improve circulation and movement.