What Is Peripheral Artery Disease?
Peripheral Artery Disease, also known as Peripheral Arterial Disease or P.A.D., is a general term that refers to artery disease anywhere outside of your heart, including the arteries that supply blood to your legs, arms, brain, kidneys, and other organs. The most common form of P.A.D. is found in the legs.
P.A.D. affects people when the arteries in their legs become narrowed or clogged with fatty deposits or plaque. The buildup of plaque causes the arteries to harden and narrow, which is called atherosclerosis. When leg arteries are hardened and clogged, it reduces the blood flow to the legs. Some people call this poor circulation and may even have a lower temperature in their legs or feet.
This is a very serious condition. People often don't know they have P.A.D. until severe conditions occur, including heart attack and stroke.
Think about the plumbing in your house. Over time as the pipes get clogged, the smaller pipes tend to clog first. The arteries leading to your legs and feet are much smaller than the ones in your heart or abdomen and tend to clog first.
P.A.D. Is A Silent Killer
P.A.D. is a silent killer. In fact, in the early stages of P.A.D., most have no symptoms at all. About 25% of people feel cramping in their legs when they walk distances, known as claudication. This occurs due to the oxygen deficiency from the lack of blood flow. As the P.A.D. progresses, the pain can continue at night and disturb your sleep. Wounds and ulcers can develop on your feet, which are typically slow to heal (8+ weeks) and put you at risk for infection, If infection occurs, it may lead lower extremity amputation (surgical removal of your toes, foot or leg).
How Common Is P.A.D.?
According to the National Institute of Health, approximately 8 to 12 million Americans are affected by Peripheral Artery Disease (P.A.D.). Are you one of them? Early detection and treatment of P.A.D. can help keep your legs healthy, lower your risk of heart attack or stroke, and increase mobility.