What Is Peripheral Arterial Disease?

Peripheral arterial disease is among the most common diseases that affect the body’s blood vessels. The illness manifests in the form of reduced blood flow to the limbs due to a reduction in the diameter of major blood vessels caused by the accumulation of deposits on the vessel walls. Peripheral arterial disease is largely considered to be an illness related to our lifestyle, that is why it affects around 80% of the people over the age of 60 in Western countries. Here are some more things to know about this insidious condition.

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What Causes Peripheral Arterial Disease

The principal cause that starts the process of artery narrowing is lifestyle – diets that are rich in fat and refined carbohydrates, but low in fiber cause high cholesterol and blood sugar levels and promote the development of fat deposits on the arteries and the rigidization of the major blood vessels. The disease usually takes very long to start causing symptoms – in many cases, the process of narrowing in the arteries starts at around the age of 40, but the illness can remain asymptomatic for decades.

The Symptoms of Peripheral Arterial Disease

As it is the case with many slowly progressing illnesses, the first symptoms of peripheral arterial disease are hardly noticeable, therefore easy to neglect, such as minor discomfort experienced in the affected limbs. As the disease progresses and the affected artery becomes narrower, the symptoms become stronger, too. The most common signs that the illness is progressing include claudication, that is, leg pain experienced while walking; muscle cramps; coldness in the affected limb due to improper blood circulation; shiny or discolored skin on the affected limb; slower growth of the nails and of hair on the limb due to the lack of nutrients and numbness or weakness. In more severe cases, claudication aggravates to a level that makes walking impossible and the patient might also start feeling pain even when the affected limb is resting. Severe cases of peripheral arterial disease might also be associated with the discoloration of the skin in the affected area – a very serious problem that requires instant medical treatment as the discolorations are usually caused by a complete blockage of the blood flow.

Treatment Options for Peripheral Arterial Disease

Currently, there is no healing for peripheral arterial disease – once the process has started, the damage sustained by the affected arteries is usually irreversible. However, according to a one of the most respected PAD doctor Missouri has, in mild cases, the symptoms can be efficiently reversed and the progression of the disease can be stopped with lifestyle changes, such as switching to a diet that is low in fat and sugars, and high in fiber and in healthy nutrients and the implementation of a regular exercise regimen. More severe cases can also be efficiently kept under control with the help of lifestyle changes combined with medication that keeps cholesterol and blood sugar levels in check. Very severe cases, when the blood flow to the affected limb has been completely severed, require immediate action to restore the blood flow, followed by treatment with medication and the transition to a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet.