Peripheral Artery Disease: Unveiling Symptoms, Identifying Risk Factors, and Exploring Treatment Options

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a vascular condition that affects up to 20% of Americans (both men and women) age 65 and older, often lurking silently until it progresses to more severe stages. Understanding the symptoms, recognizing risk factors, and exploring treatment options are crucial for early detection and effective management.

What are the Symptoms of PAD?

PAD manifests as reduced blood flow to the extremities, most commonly the legs. The symptoms may include pain or cramping during physical activity, which may subside with rest. Other signs include numbness, tingling, or weakness in the affected limbs. The loss of hair on the lower legs can be another warning sign of PAD. 

However, some individuals may not experience any symptoms, making regular check-ups essential, especially for those at higher risk.

PAD Risk Factors

Certain factors elevate the risk of developing PAD, including age, smoking, diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol. According to a 2021 report by the American Heart Association, both men and women are affected by PAD; however, African Americans have an increased risk of PAD. Hispanics may have similar to slightly higher rates of PAD compared with non-Hispanic white people. Approximately 6.5 million people age 40 and older in the United States have PAD.

Understanding your risk factors allows individuals to make informed lifestyle choices and adopt preventive measures.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing PAD involves a combination of physical examinations, medical history assessments, and non-invasive tests. Ultrasound and angiography are common diagnostic tools used to evaluate blood flow, identify blockages, and determine the severity of the condition. Early detection enables prompt intervention, reducing the risk of complications.

If detected early, many with PAD can be treated just with smoking cessation and a medically supervised exercise program. This is known as conservative treatment. Maintaining a healthy weight, and engaging in regular physical activity are key preventive measures. Routine medical check-ups enable early detection and intervention, especially for those with risk factors.

If conservative treatment isn’t working and the issue progresses, other, more aggressive treatment options are available. The interventional radiologists at Memphis Vascular Center can perform a procedure called balloon angioplasty to open a blocked artery and place a stent to hold the artery open if needed. Atherectomy is another technique to treat PAD. It removes plaque from the wall of the blood vessel, which is then drawn into the catheter and removed from the body.

To learn more about PAD treatment at Memphis Vascular or schedule your appointment, please call us at 901-683-1890.

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