All About PAD: Early Signs, Complications, Treatment, and Prevention

Sep 01, 2023
All About PAD: Early Signs, Complications, Treatment, and Prevention
September is peripheral artery disease (PAD) awareness month. Here’s everything you need to know about this dangerous and potentially even fatal disease.

One of the most important parts of your body is the cardiovascular system. When your blood vessels can’t work properly due to constriction or too much pressure, you can end up with serious complications. One of the most common issues is peripheral artery disease, also known as PAD.

At Apex Endovascular, located in Fort Collins, Colorado, Dr. Shawn Ahmed routinely screens patients for peripheral artery disease. If you have PAD, he develops a customized treatment plan and works with you to keep your PAD from progressing.  

All about PAD

According to the CDC, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 6.5 million adults who have been diagnosed with PAD. When you add in all misdiagnosed or undiagnosed cases, that number can be significantly higher. Awareness of PAD can help you identify it earlier in yourself or a loved one, so you can start treatment.

What PAD is

PAD is a narrowing of the arteries that reduces blood flow and increases blood pressure. In most cases, PAD is caused by a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries, known as atherosclerosis. 

There are some factors that can increase your risk of developing PAD. If you already have high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol, are obese, or have a family history of PAD, you’re at heightened risk. Your risk can also increase after the age of 65 (age 50 if you’re at high risk for atherosclerosis). 

Early signs of PAD

Most people notice symptoms in their legs first, since arteries there have to work the hardest, and you have naturally higher blood pressure in your legs as a result. Pay attention to potential PAD symptoms like:

  • Painful/frequent leg cramps
  • Patches of shiny or discolored skin
  • Constant feelings of coldness or numbness
  • Extremely slow hair growth
  • Wounds that refuse to heal 

Since PAD often does a lot of damage to the arteries before symptoms become obvious, it’s critical to be vigilant and act on any early signs. The sooner you receive a diagnosis and treatment, the lower your risk of complications will be.

Complications of PAD 

PAD mostly affects the smaller arteries that carry freshly oxygenated blood from your heart to the furthest areas of your body, such as your head, limbs, and digestive system. Decreased blood flow due to narrow arteries and increasing blood pressure can lead to increased risk for stroke or heart disease/attack. Lessened blood flow and poor oxygenation can also put you at risk for poor healing, gangrene, and even limb amputation.

Treatment for PAD

The first step toward PAD treatment is getting a confirmed diagnosis. Dr. Ahmed typically screens for PAD using a Doppler ultrasound, an angiography, or both. We check to see if arteries are narrowed, blood is moving slowly, and/or the pulse in your leg isn’t strong and regular.

People with PAD often notice no symptoms until the disease has started to create complications. You may need medication to help expand your arteries, or even surgery to prevent a potential clot from forming in a narrowed artery, breaking free, and traveling to your heart or lungs.

PAD prevention

If you’re at high risk for PAD but don’t have the disease yet, you may be able to prevent it from developing. Dr. Ahmed can work with you to make important lifestyle changes such as losing weight, eating better, stopping smoking, and getting appropriate exercise. Treating conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes can also help reduce your risk for PAD.   

Do you need to be screened for PAD? If so, call Apex Endovascular at 970-508-8439, or book a consultation online today.