It would be difficult to overstate the importance of blood circulation in your body. This is a vital system that ensures all body parts receive the oxygen and nutrients they need to live and grow. When this circulation is impaired, it can potentially lead to serious medical issues. Such is the case with a condition known as peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
Your feet are the farthest points on the body from your heart, so oxygenated blood already has to make quite the trip down there, even when everything is running smoothly. When PAD enters the picture, the outlook isn’t always all that great. Of course, you can always find the care you need here at Wilks Advanced Foot Care.
PAD Causes and Risk Factors
Peripheral artery disease is commonly caused by atherosclerosis, which is a condition where fatty deposits (plaques) build up along your artery walls and reduce blood flow. Although people often focus on the heart when discussing atherosclerosis, this disease can (and usually does) affect many different arteries throughout your body, including those supplying blood to your lower limbs.
Risk factors for peripheral arterial disease include smoking, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, family history, and age. The condition tends to be more commonly seen in patients who are 50 years of age and older.
Symptoms and Complications of Peripheral Arterial Disease
Unfortunately, symptoms are not always present with PAD, which means there are individuals who have a heightened risk of serious complications, but are unaware. When symptoms are present, they include:
- Claudication, which is painful cramping in leg and hip muscles following certain activities (like walking or climbing stairs)
- Weakness or numbness in the legs
- Coldness in a foot or lower leg, especially in comparison to the other limb
- Sores on the lower body that will not heal
- Change of color in the skin on your lower body
- Slower-than-normal growth, or loss, of hair on your legs and feet
- Slower-than-normal toenail growth
- A weak or nonexistent pulse in the feet or legs
- Abnormally shiny skin on your legs
There are two serious complications that can accompany atherosclerosis:
- Critical limb ischemia – The body relies on natural healing processes to heal sores and fight off infection, but restricted blood flow does not adequately provide the antibodies and nutrients necessary for tissue repair. This means infections and injuries can progress to the point they cause gangrene (tissue death), which may require amputation. This is especially critical for people living with diabetes.
- Increased heart attack and stroke risk – Whereas you may observe the symptoms in your lower limbs, the atherosclerosis is not limited to just your legs. The arteries supplying blood to your brain and heart can also have fatty deposits that restrict blood flow and could result in either a heart attack or stroke.
Treating PAD – At Home and Professional Care
There are some measures you can take on your own to possibly improve the condition. These include things like quitting smoking, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding certain cold medications (particularly those containing pseudoephedrine).
Smoking is one of the most egregious offenders when it comes to PAD. The habit constricts and damages arteries, so quitting is the single most important thing you can do to lower your risk of medical complications.
Exercise is beneficial because it promotes heart health, circulation, and also conditions muscles to more efficiently use oxygen. We can help you create an appropriate exercise plan to help boost blood flow, reduce your risk of PAD and also keeps you safe from other issues.
In addition to lifestyle changes, you may also benefit from professional treatment options. These can include medications, angioplasty, and even surgical procedures.
Professional PAD Treatment in Roseburg, OR
When you recognize any of the symptoms of peripheral arterial disease, contact Wilks Advanced Foot Care for the earliest possible appointment. We can properly diagnose the condition and then get you started on an appropriate treatment plan. Either give us a call at (541) 673-0742 or use our online form to request your appointment with our Roseburg, OR podiatrist office today.