Peripheral arterial disease (Part 1)
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a common condition in which a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries restricts the blood supply to leg muscles. It is also known as peripheral vascular disease. It frequency increases with age. It tends to be an under-diagnosed condition with many people suffering from symptoms of PAD not realising what it is and that it can be treated. About 1 in 5 men and 1 in 8 women aged 50 to 75 years have PAD.
Common symptoms of PAD are painful leg cramps brought on by walking. Cramps generally disappear after 5 to 10 minutes of resting. About two-thirds of people with PAD have no noticeable symptoms. PAD is not immediately life-threatening; however, PAD often indicates that the person is suffering from a more serious condition called atherosclerosis. This is a serious condition where the medium and large arteries become clogged up by fatty substances, such as cholesterol. If untreated, condition will get worse and can lead to serious clots, including coronary heart disease including angina, heart attack and stroke.
If the symptoms of PAD worsen, there is a risk of gangrene as blood flow is blocked to the lower leg due to poor circulation; the tissue of the lower leg can die which can lead to amputation.
Risk factors for PAD are the same as for other cardiovascular diseases and include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Smoking is considered the biggest single risk factor. The two most important lifestyle changes are to stop smoking if still smoking and to exercise daily.
The most common symptom of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is painful cramping in leg muscles triggered by physical activity such as walking or climbing stairs. This is because as you walk, muscles in the legs (especially the calves) need more blood and oxygen, but this is blocked by the narrowed arteries. The pain and cramps usually occur in the calves, but sometimes the hips or thigh muscles are affected. If an artery higher up is narrowed, then pain in the thighs or buttocks can occur when walking.
Other symptoms of PAD may include numbness or weakness in the legs; hair loss on legs and feet; skin colour on the legs turning pale or bluish; shiny skin; brittle, slow-growing toenails; ulcers on the feet and legs which are slow to heal; shrinking of the muscles in the legs; not being able to feel a pulse in the legs or the pulse feeling much weaker than normal and erectile dysfunction
Some symptoms suggest that the supply of blood to the legs has become severely restricted and require urgent medical treatment. These include being unable to move the muscles in the affected leg; a burning or prickling sensation in the affected leg; toes suddenly turning blue and the skin on the toes or lower limbs becoming cold and numb, turning reddish and then black or beginning to swell and produce foul-smelling pus, causing severe pain.
BPro Cardio Screen
BPro Cardio Screen measures cardio pulse wave which determines the health of your arteries for your age based on their elasticity. In simple terms, it measures the “age of our heart”! It is now available from Whelehans Pharmacy Mullingar at only €35. It only takes our consultant a couple of minutes to measure your cardio pulse wave; it is very simple, and completely pain free. It is placed on your wrist like a wrist watch where a laser diode reads and calculates a wave signal that indicates the elasticity of artery walls as well as tests for stress, central blood pressure, heart rate, and more. Our next Bpro Cardio Screen Clinic in Whelehans Pearse St is Saturday September 14th. Call Whelehans at 04493 34591 to book your place.
To be continued...next week I discuss treatment of PAD
For comprehensive and free health advice and information call in to Whelehans, log on to www.whelehans.ie or dial 04493 34591 (Pearse St) or 04493 10266 (Clonmore).