Peripheral arterial disease or PAD is a common condition in the United States, with an estimated 6.5-plus million people suffering from the disease. PAD represents the narrowing or blockage of the arteries that carry oxygenated blood to extremities such as the legs. The primary cause of this narrowing is plaque buildup in the arteries, known as atherosclerosis. The incidence of PAD increases with age. Women tend to have a higher risk of developing PAD than men, up to 60. However, after 60, men have a greater chance of PAD.
Factors That Increase the Risk of PAD
Other than age, the risk factors associated with PAD are modifiable. This means that patients who improve their lifestyle through diet and exercise and quitting unhealthy habits can reduce their risk of developing the disorder. Some of the most significant risks include smoking, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol. The risk of PAD increases as the patient ages. Most people who have PAD are over the age of 60. African Americans generally have a higher risk of PAD, while Hispanics and Caucasians tend to have a somewhat lower risk.
Why Is Pad Problematic?
Properly functioning arteries allow for the proper flow of oxygenated blood throughout the body. If plaque begins to build up along the arterial walls, the blood flow is reduced. The greater the plaque buildup, the more occluded the artery becomes. Eventually, the extremities, usually the legs, do not receive enough oxygenated blood, and the symptoms can begin to appear. The most common signs and symptoms of PAD Include pain during and after physical activity and aches and cramps, which can occur anywhere in the legs or even the buttocks and hip. While pain is very common, upwards of 40% of those suffering from pad have no pain. Other PAD symptoms include muscle weakness, cold or numb toes, wounds, or ulcers that do not heal. Some patients with PD will experience hair loss, shiny skin, and skin that is noticeably cooler to the touch. Typically, the symptoms of PAD subside when the patient stops exercising.
How We Diagnose PAD
When you first see Dr. Farrugia for PAD symptoms, he will perform a physical evaluation and understand your medical history. Typically, the signs and symptoms of PAD are distinct. For some, further testing is required, including an ankle-brachial index – essentially a blood pressure test for the ankles. We also offer on-site carotid, aortic, and lower extremity ultrasound. MRA and CT scans are rarely necessary.
Treatment for PAD
Fortunately, PAD is more treatable than ever before due to improvements in technique and technology. Further, treatment can be performed in a minimally invasive manner, where Dr. Farrugia will create access through the groin or the foot.
If caught early enough, lifestyle changes in the form of improved diet and exercise and medication such as aspirin or other anticoagulants may be sufficient to prevent the disease from progressing. You will likely need cholesterol medication as well.
Symptomatic Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is treated both medically and through advanced endovascular intervention when appropriate. Dr. Farrugia served as the Director of Outpatient Vascular Medicine for eight years for Barnabas Health Medical Group and has transformed care with cutting edge, minimally invasive procedures designed to restore blood flow without having extended downtime or surgery-related complications. The procedure is performed in the Office Based Lab located at 317 George St New Brunswick, NJ.