Peripheral Arterial Disease

Progressive Condition that Impacts the Arteries

Although your heart is at the center of your cardiovascular system, the entire system must function to keep your body healthy. Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a progressive condition that impacts the arteries carrying blood from your heart through your body. As it gets more serious, it can cause pain, dysfunction, or even loss of the organs the blood is supposed to supply.

Fortunately, PAD is treatable. However, the treatment depends on the level of your PAD. The sooner we detect PAD, the more we can rely on noninvasive treatments – and the more likely you are to get good results.

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What Is Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is when the arteries that carry blood away from the heart to supply your limbs and organs, including your brain, become narrowed or blocked.

Causes of PAD include:

  • Arteriosclerosis (atherosclerosis)
  • Injury
  • Unusual anatomy
  • Infection

Arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) affects most people to some extent. As the arteries become scarred, they can also narrow, restricting the flow of blood to organs and muscles. The most common form of arteriosclerosis is atherosclerosis, in which plaque builds up in arteries. How much plaque accumulates depends on your lifestyle and personal risk factors.

Injury can lead to blockage of the peripheral arteries. The injury itself might damage the blood vessels. In addition, scarring and healing could lead to further blockage.

Some people have relatively narrow peripheral arteries. These are especially prone to blockage and may even contribute to symptoms of PAD when no technical disease is present.

Infection can contribute to PAD in several ways. Growing bacterial colonies can themselves block your arteries, though this is less common. More commonly, your body’s response to infection, including inflammation, will lead to swelling in the area. Swelling tissues, including the walls of your arteries, can lead to narrowing of your arteries, leading to blockage.

People with coronary arterial disease (CAD) also commonly have PAD.

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Symptoms of Peripheral Arterial Disease

PAD can be a slow progressive condition that doesn’t manifest as noticeable symptoms at first. However, when the disease becomes more serious, you may notice numerous symptoms depending on where the narrowing or blockage occurs.

Common symptoms of PAD include:

  • Pain in the legs when active (claudication)
  • Pain in the legs when resting
  • Weakness, tingling, or numbness in the legs
  • A lower limb that is noticeably colder than the other leg
  • Weak pulse in the legs
  • Shiny skin
  • Color change in the affected area
  • Hair loss or slower hair growth
  • Slow toenail growth
  • Spontaneous wounds in the legs and feet that are slow to heal
  • Pain in the buttocks
  • Sexual dysfunction in men

Most Common Symptom

Claudication is the most common symptom of PAD. This is pain in the legs when you are being active. You might also experience cramps. The pain and cramps disappear after a short rest. As the disease worsens, you might notice pain in your legs even when resting.

Who Is at Risk for Peripheral Arterial Disease?

Most people have some risk of PAD. However, your risk is higher if you:

  • Are over age 50
  • Are a man or a postmenopausal woman
  • Have a family history of heart disease, PAD, or stroke
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Are overweight
  • Have high cholesterol
  • Have diabetes
  • Smoke, use tobacco, or use drugs
  • Are physically inactive
  • Have had a stroke
  • Have coronary artery disease
  • Have kidney disease

We can change some of these risk factors to head off the development of PAD, but some of them cannot be changed. If you have unalterable risk factors, you should remain vigilant for PAD.

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Treatment Options for Peripheral Arterial Disease

When we diagnose or suspect PAD, we can recommend treatments depending on the severity of the condition. We may recommend:

  • Lifestyle changes
  • Treatment of related conditions
  • Medications
  • Angioplasty
  • Vascular surgery

Often, a combination approach works best to prevent the development of serious PAD. Sometimes, the effects of PAD cause so much tissue destruction that amputation of the affected limb(s) is necessary.

Making lifestyle changes is a great way to target mild PAD and may be recommended for people with risk factors but no verified disease. Most commonly, we will recommend weight loss, diet changes, and increased physical activity.

We will also recommend that you quit smoking or using tobacco in any form.

We will recommend targeting conditions that can contribute to the severity of your PAD. This includes diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. This might involve medications or further lifestyle changes.

Medications can help your peripheral arteries stay open. Two common classes of medications include blood thinners and vasodilators. Blood thinners, also called anticoagulants or anti-platelet agents reduce the tendency of your blood to clot and form blockages. Vasodilators encourage your blood vessels to stay open.

Peripheral angioplasty is similar to coronary angioplasty, only we use it to target blockage in your peripheral blood vessels. Tools in a catheter – a long, hollow, flexible tube – can reach blockages and eliminate them. We might place stents to hold the blood vessels open.

Sometimes angioplasty can’t restore sufficient blood flow. In this case, we might use vascular surgery to reroute the flow of blood in your body. We might use a donor vessel from a different part of the body or a synthetic blood vessel for the new route.

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Why Choose Colorado Springs Cardiology for Peripheral Arterial Disease Treatment

At Colorado Springs Cardiology, we use the latest proven techniques and technologies to treat PAD. However, we understand that successful treatment is about more than just technology. We want to treat you as a whole person and individual, not just a heart condition. Colorado Springs Cardiology has more doctors, specialists, and nurses than any cardiology practice in Southern Colorado. This helps you find a doctor that meets your needs and your personality. You’ll get a dedicated treatment team that gets to know you, not just your condition.

With several locations across Southern Colorado, you can find a location that’s convenient for you. We can also help with transportation to your treatment location, including local lodging to make access easier. We accept most insurance, and we offer financial assistance for people who need it.

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Contact us today to get started!

Learn more about how Colorado Springs Cardiology can help you achieve the best results from peripheral arterial disease treatment. Please call 719-960-0363 or use our online form to schedule an appointment today.