Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is caused by build up of plaque in the arteries bringing blood to your extremities, organs and brain. The plaque is formed by cholesterol, calcium, platelets, and fibrosis tissue which are all found in the blood. After an artery is damaged the body begins healing by forming plaque at the damaged site.
The plaque will harden over time and result in narrowed arteries which obstructs blood flow. The plaque can break off the artery wall and form clots or obstruction of the artery resulting in decreased flow of blood to important tissues. PAD can cause a variety of symptoms ranging from skin changes to organ failure. Knowing and addressing your risk factors can help prevent this significant health problem.
The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association have identified groups with increased risk.
- Over age 70 years old
- Age 50 to 70 with history of tobacco use
- Age 40 to 50 with Diabetes Mellitus and at least one additional risk factor (male, African American, family history of atherogenesis, tobacco use, elevated cholesterol, and hypertension)
- Abnormal lower extremity pulse examination
- Known Arteriosclerosis
Your healthcare provider will diagnose PAD by comparing blood pressure in arms & legs, usually via ultrasound and physical exam and blood tests.
Prevention of PAD continues to be the best intervention. The US preventive health taskforce recommends smoking cessation, a heart healthy diet, management of elevated cholesterol, and controlling diabetes and/or hypertension. All of these strategies reduce your risk of this common and significant problem. Discuss your risk with your health care provider at your next annual exam.
David Stahura, DO