Peripheral arterial disease is caused when the arteries that carry blood through the body are narrowed or blocked by plaque, a condition known as atherosclerosis. While it most commonly affects the legs, it can occur in other areas of the body as well. If left untreated, peripheral arterial disease can lead to serious complications; but up to a third of those who have the disease are undiagnosed.
This condition is more common among men, older adults and those with a personal or family history of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. While peripheral arterial disease is most often caused by atherosclerosis, it can also be caused by injury or infection.
People with peripheral arterial disease are much more likely to suffer a cardiac crisis, such as heart attack or stroke. Because of the poor circulation atherosclerosis causes, they are also at higher risk for limb loss, poor wound healing and pain in the affected extremities. In many cases, the disease also affects mobility, in turn limiting quality of life.
While peripheral arterial disease is a serious condition, it’s also often preventable. To avoid developing atherosclerosis, you should quit smoking if you smoke and avoid secondhand smoke; eat a more nutritious diet with limited fat and cholesterol; lose weight if you are overweight; limit your alcohol intake; and treat comorbid conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes.
In about half of peripheral arterial disease cases, the disease causes no symptoms. This is one of the reasons why it so often goes undiagnosed. The cases that do have symptoms typically first manifest with painful leg cramps during exercise. As the disease progresses, you may experience skin that is cool or brittle to the touch in the affected area, weakened pulses, dead tissue, non-healing wounds, muscle numbness or weakness, sexual dysfunction, burning and aching pain at rest and restricted mobility.
While peripheral arterial disease can cause serious complications or vascular surgery, treatment can halt the progression of the disease and limit potential damage. This typically includes a combination of lifestyle changes to reduce risk factors like obesity; medication to treat coexisting conditions like hypertension; medications to relax the vascular walls; blood thinners; and surgical procedures to open up the blocked areas, including angioplasty and stent placement.
If you are in one of the high risk groups described above or if you are experiencing the symptoms of peripheral arterial disease, visit the Miami Vein Treatment Center in Miami right away. Contact us today to schedule a consultation at our Miami vascular treatment center and friendly office.