Approximately 6.5 million adults in the United States have peripheral artery disease (PAD), and this number is likely higher due to undiagnosed cases. Despite becoming increasingly common, many people aren’t aware of the signs and symptoms of this condition. PAD can contribute to a number of serious issues, including heart disease and stroke, making early detection an important factor in your continued health.
At Advanced Heart and Vascular Associates, with locations in Hudson, Land O Lakes, and Brooksville, Florida, Dr. Nader H. Chadda can screen you for PAD and arrive at a diagnosis. If you have PAD, he can recommend a course of treatment to put you back on the road to vascular health.
Understanding arterial health
Before discussing PAD, it’s important to understand how your arteries carry blood through your body. We’ve all learned the basics about veins, arteries, and capillaries, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. Your peripheral arteries are the vessels that carry blood away from your heart and toward the outer areas of your body.
Peripheral artery disease narrows your arteries, making it more difficult for your heart to pump blood to your legs, arms, head, and digestive organs. This can increase your risk for:
Peripheral artery disease is often caused by atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis occurs when a substance called plaque builds up in your arteries and hardens, making the walls stiff and the conduit narrow. This makes it difficult for the blood to flow through those areas and increases your blood pressure as a result.
Risk factors for atherosclerosis include:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
Family history and race can also play a part in PAD: Black Americans are more likely to develop this disease, and there seems to be a hereditary link as well.
What to look for
Unfortunately, PAD often doesn’t present with any symptoms at all. That’s why regular check-ups and PAD screenings are important, especially as you get older. If you think you’re at risk for PAD, make sure to get screened more frequently.
However, issues with circulation are a good indication of PAD. Here are some of the most common symptoms:
- Pain in your calf muscles
- One leg feeling colder than the other
- Pain while walking or exercising (claudication)
- Thinning hair on your legs
- Discolored or slow-growing toenails
- Slow-healing wounds on legs and feet
- A weak pulse in one or both legs
Another common, rarely discussed symptom in men is erectile dysfunction. While it might be embarrassing to bring this issue up with your doctor, it’s important, as it can be an indication of a deeper circulatory issue.
The importance of screening for PAD
As mentioned above, the symptoms of PAD might not always be readily apparent, so regular screening is crucial. Healthy people over 70, smokers or diabetics over 50, and those with a family history should all be screened on a regular basis. If left untreated, PAD can lead to serious consequences, including loss of a limb or stroke.
Screening for PAD is easy. Dr. Chadda will evaluate how well your blood is flowing and check for blockages using a Doppler ultrasound test. He can also use angiography to check for PAD by tracking blood flow through your legs. If a catheter angiography is necessary, he does it under sedation for your comfort.
If you’re at risk for PAD, are experiencing symptoms of PAD, or want to learn more about your circulatory health, you can reach Advanced Heart and Vascular Associates by calling 727-859-7670, or by booking an appointment online.