The most common cause of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is atherosclerosis. In atherosclerosis, fatty deposits (plaques) build up on the walls of the arteries and reduce blood flow. PAD mimics a condition similar to coronary artery disease and carotid artery disease, where fatty deposits accumulate on the inner linings of the artery walls. These blockages restrict blood circulation, mainly in the arteries that go to the kidneys, stomach, arms, legs, and feet.
Robert S. Schwartz, MD states, “Atherosclerosis and PAD are pretty much the same. Atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries. It is the peripheral arterial disease plaque that accumulates; it’s the calcium, the fats, the fibrous tissue, the scars that grow in the arteries and prevent blood from flowing to the legs. ”
In the United Kingdom, about 2.7 million people 55 years of age and older have some degree of peripheral arterial disease, and almost 8 to 12 million people in the United States with this disease are unaware that they have it.
PAD is often silent for a long time before you notice any symptoms. Some symptoms of PAD can include:
1. Foot pain that doesn’t go away when you stop exercising.
2. Cold and numb feet or toes
3. Numbness or weakness in the legs
4. A change in the color of your legs.
5. Decreased strength, function, and balance of the legs
6. Experiencing discomfort in the calf or thigh muscles or buttocks may be indicative of claudication. (Leg pain with PAD occurs in the muscles, not the joints.)
7. Hair loss on feet and legs
8. Changes in your nails
9. Foot pain at rest, indicating that PAD is getting worse.
10. Foot or toe wounds that do not heal or heal very slowly
11. Erectile dysfunction
* The symptoms of peripheral vascular disease depend on the affected artery and the severity of the reduction in blood flow.
One of the serious side effects of peripheral vascular disease is Buerger’s disease (obliterative thromboangitis). It is characterized by a combination of inflammation and clots in the arteries and veins that obstruct blood flow. Brandon Carmichael [http://www.smokinggotme.com/my_story.html] is a young man who has suffered from this disease to the extreme, having his left leg amputated below the knee for smoking.
The risk of peripheral vascular disease increases dramatically in smokers. When a person stops smoking, regardless of how much he has smoked in the past, his risk of peripheral vascular disease decreases rapidly.
In a silent epidemic health report article on peripheral arterial disease, Alan T. Hirsch, MD, president, P.A.D. The Coalition states that “peripheral arterial disease is the most dangerous disease that most Americans have never heard of.” The same article continues with the following warning: “People with peripheral arterial disease – P.A.D. – have up to a six-fold increase in cardiovascular death. Without early detection and proper treatment, one in four people with P.A.D. he will suffer a heart attack, stroke, amputation or die in the next five years. “