Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is a common, but often misdiagnosed, arterial condition, which is why September has been named PAD Awareness month.
What is Peripheral Arterial Disease?
Atherosclerosis is a condition in which your arteries become partially blocked, slowing blood flow into your legs. The blockage comes from a buildup of plaque, a substance composed of cholesterol, calcium, fibrin, and fatty substances. As your vital organs and limbs get less blood flow, they fail to keep up with your body’s demands. When the process impacts your lower limbs, but not your vital organs, it is known as peripheral arterial disease (PAD.)
Some people with PAD do not develop symptoms until the condition is dangerously advanced. That’s why it’s crucial to know the signs and symptoms of the disease, especially if your PAD risk is elevated. Your risk is elevated if you:
- Have diabetes
- Have high blood pressure or cholesterol
- Are inactive
- Have a family history of heart disease or PAD
- Are over the age of 50
5 Critical PAD Warning Signs to Watch For
If your PAD risk is elevated,see your vein doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:
- Leg or hip cramping, especially when you are getting active.
- Feeling cold or numb in your feet and/or legs.
- During periods of inactivity, a burning or aching sensation in your feet and/or toes.
- Sudden, unexplained hair loss on your legs.
- A change in skin color on your legs, feet or toes.
Additionally, people who are suffering from PAD may experience leg and foot pain during sleep.
Why is PAD Hard to Diagnose?
PAD is so often ignored or misdiagnosed because people dismiss the symptoms we just called out. Some think they are just getting older, while others are not specific about their discomfort. They often end up being treated for other conditions they may not even have!
If, however, you know the warning signs of PAD and see your vein specialist as soon as you notice a problem, PAD is actually pretty simple to diagnose and treat. In our Houston vein specialist practice, Dr. Fox and Dr. Hardee can detect PAD with an easy bedside test called the Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI). We use ultrasound and blood pressure cuffs to evaluate the circulation in your arms and legs. If this test delivers abnormal results, further tests may be performed to determine the extent of the condition and your best course of treatment.
Thankfully, most treatment plans for PAD involve simple lifestyle changes, like exercise therapy to manage pain and improve blood flow. Unfortunately, left untreated, PAD can be life threatening. Decreased blood flow increases the likelihood of blood clots, ulcers and, in extreme cases, gangrene!
For all of these reasons, it is crucial to watch your body carefully and take note if you detect any PAD warning signs. If you have any concerns about your vein health, feel free to contact us and come in for an expert vein health consultation.
Take Action Against PAD
Knowing your risk is crucial, but this PAD awareness month, we’re hoping you’ll take things a step further. Share your PAD story on social media using the hashtag #PADAwareness, and write to your Member of Congress, asking her or him to join the new Congressional Caucus on PAD! Together, we can make a difference.