Peripheral Artery Disease – Diagnosing and Treatment Choices
Do you frequently feel muscle cramps, numbness, or tingling anywhere in your leg or hand? Never take it lightly. It could be worse than you think. It could be peripheral artery disease.
Few people know about peripheral artery disease, also known as PAD. The awareness of the disease is at approximately 25% of the general population in the USA, including some doctors. We hope this information can help create awareness and educate more people about the disease.
The disease can be misdiagnosed due to duplicating symptoms with spinal stenosis (narrowing of spine spaces). Such can lead to delay or wrong treatment causing severe complications such as acute limb ischemia (insufficient blood supply).
Prolonged severe limb ischemia can cause the death of the limb tissue, necessitating amputation. The emergency amputation would be to prevent further tissue damage.
What is Peripheral Artery Disease?
Peripheral artery disease, also known as peripheral vascular disease, is a health condition of the arteries that supply oxygenated blood to tissues and organs away from the heart. Such organs are legs, arms, stomach, and head. It is the narrowing or blockage of arteries of blood vessels caused by atherosclerosis (plaque buildup).
Peripheral artery disease is similar to coronary artery disease. The only difference is that coronary artery disease affects the heart due to reduced oxygenated blood supply.
Estimated statistics of PAD cases around the world stands at more than 200 million both of non-symptom and severe cases. The disease is prevalent among the elderly, with an estimation of 20% of all PAD patients. In the USA alone, PAD has an estimate of 8.5 million cases.
Some people are at higher risk of peripheral artery disease than others. You can find out whether you are at risk of the disease.
What are the Risk Factors of PAD?
- Age (After 50 years old)
- Hereditary or family history of PAD or heart disease
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Homocysteine or blood containing amino acid
The peripheral artery disease can begin by plaque formation, which can lead to narrow arteries. When plaque continues to buildup, your peripheral blood circulation gets worse. Sometimes, the plaque can rupture and cause clots and hence blocking your arteries completely.What are the Causes of Peripheral Artery Diseases?
The most common cause of peripheral artery disease is atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition that affects arteries due to plaque buildup.
Other causes of peripheral artery disease might be:
Exposure to Radiation
Radiation treatment can cause morbidity of the peripheral artery. Radiation has been noted to induce atherosclerosis to the vessels around it.
An injury to a limb can leave behind blood clots in the arteries. Clot formation can cause peripheral artery disease.
Excessive Blood Clotting Disorder
Blood clotting is a healthy way of stopping blood flow after an injury. But, clotting can become abnormal when in excessive. The hypercoagulable disease is the name of a blood clotting disorder. The clots can develop in the peripheral artery causing PAD.
Blood Vessel Defects
Blood vessels can have some abnormalities from childbirth such as extreme narrowing, which can later in life cause PAD.
Arteries inflammation resulting from autoimmune disease or infection can cause scarring and hence narrowing the arteries.
Infections such as salmonellosis can narrow the arteries due to scarring.
Sometimes, PAD cases may be 'silent' without any symptoms. In such a case, only through regular medical examination would your doctor notice signs of the disease.
Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease
The common PAD symptom is leg pain (claudication), especially when walking. You may experience some relief when you rest. The pain can occur at the calf, thigh, and hip or the buttock.Other peripheral artery disease symptoms include:
- Muscle atrophy (wasting away of the muscles)
- Low or absent feet pulse
- Chronic legs sores or ulcers
- Cold or numb feet and toes
- Hair loss on the limb
- Weakness in the legs
- Shiny skin
- Brittle toenails
- Erectile dysfunction
If, in your case, you experience some of the mentioned symptoms, visit your health practitioner for examination. Unless you get early treatment, the disease can regenerate to other complications.What are the Complications of Peripheral Artery Disease?
- Chronic sores on the legs
- Serious limb ischemia
- Infections on the legs
- Gangrene leading to limb amputation
- Heart attack / stroke / cardiac arrest
- Kidney failure
To avoid such complications, you need to visit your doctor immediately you suspect the onset of peripheral artery disease. Your doctor can then run tests to diagnose the disease. Once your doctor detects peripheral artery disease, you can get treatment immediately.
Early treatment of the disease is essential to prevent other severe complications such as heart diseases.
Diagnosing Peripheral Artery Disease
Your doctor may first ask you a few questions to know your medical history and to determine whether you are at risk of the disease. You may go through other tests to ascertain the presence and extent of the disease.
Some of the procedures your doctor may choose to use for diagnosing peripheral artery disease include:
Physical Examination. The first test your doctor may suggest is physical examination. Your doctor may:
- Check the pulse rate.
- Use a stethoscope to listen for whooshing sound on your peripheral arteries.
- Check for skin sores or scars of healed wounds and other examinations.
Blood Tests. Your doctor may suggest sampling your blood to measure cholesterol level, check for diabetes, and kidney disease.
Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI) Test. Ankle-brachial index test is a simple 10-minute ankle test to check blood pressure using an ultrasound probe. The examination can reveal any indications of the disease and its severity.
Usually, your doctor can perform two tests. The first test would be done when at rest, and the second one after exercises such as using a treadmill. The regular reading of ABI is between 1.0 and 1.4. The abnormal one is 0.9 and below, which would indicate peripheral artery disease.
MRI or CT Scan. If, for instance, the ABI (ankle-brachial index) has indicated PAD, your doctor may use an MRI or CT scan to determine the exact position of the PAD and how best to treat it.
Ultrasound Imaging. Ultrasound imaging is a procedure your doctor could use to detect a narrow or a blocked artery. Doppler probe can be used for the procedure. The method can also record waveforms to detect any abnormal blood flow.
Catheter Angiogram. A catheter angiogram may be the last examination to perform by invasion, to check on any blockage. Your doctor may decide to take advantage of this invasive procedure to treat your condition.
The doctor would inject some contrast dye into the suspected artery. The technique should reveal images through X-ray, MRA (magnetic resonance angiography), or CTA (computerized tomography angiography) to check on the flow of the contrast dye in the artery.
Peripheral Artery Disease Treatment
You may wonder, what is the best treatment for peripheral artery disease? The best and initial treatment would be you. Change your lifestyle to manage the disease and to prevent other serious complications.Lifestyle Changes
Some of the lifestyle changes you would like to initiate are:
Eat healthily – Eat fiber-rich food, low in fat, cholesterols, and sodium. According to one Norwegian scientist in World War II, fat scarcity can cause the regression of plaque in the artery.
Quit smoking – It is a must. Your doctor may help to organize some programs to help you overcome the urge or smoking addiction.
Exercising – Walking can ease your leg pain. Moreover, regular exercises with a customized program depending on the PAD location can reduce plaque buildup.
Medication – Your doctor can select the best treatment suitable for your condition and health.
Interventional procedures – Your doctor can perform an interventional angiography procedure to widen a narrowed artery. The method can also open a blocked artery. Stent (mesh framework) placement after angioplasty can support the artery to remain open.
Atherectomy – By using a catheter, your physician would puncture a small area of a suspected blockage to remove the buildup plaque. The procedure, just like surgery, requires local anesthesia to reduce pain.
We do DNA health testing which could help detect this potential and many other issues. If you are concerned that you might have this possibility, then give us a call and we can set up a DNA health assessment test. The Gene MTRR is a key factor in Heart Health especially with Homocysteine Levels.
Key Genes: MTRR Homocysteine/Healthy Heart Gene or MTRR rs1801394
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE MTRR GENE? The MTRR gene encodes for the MTRR enzyme, which specifically supports cardiovascular health by regulating homocysteine levels.
Live Blood Testing
We do Live Blood Analysis and look at dry blood samples specifically.
Blistering: A localized area in the sample that appears raised/bulging. This pattern is connected to cardiovascular health challenges, including circulation problems, stress on the heart, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, narrowing of blood vessels, etc.
Peripheral Artery Disease Complementary and Alternative Therapy
There are various alternative treatments for heart health issues. However, you may require consulting your health practitioner for the best therapy and advice. The following are some of the recommendations from our natural health practitioner, Yvonne Dollard Perc.
Natural Supplements to Strengthen and Support the Heart and Circulatory System
Rejuvenaid, 30 Packets - Helps to maintain proper muscle function and tissue formation and to form red blood cells, supports energy production, and helps to maintain heart muscle function.
CoQ10-100 mg (60 Softgels) - Helps to maintain and/or support cardiovascular health. Many Co-Q10 products are marketed in a crystalline state, a form in which the coenzyme's absorbability is far less than ideal. Nature's Sunshine uses a patented lipid blend to keep Co-Q10 from crystallizing, and it yields maximum bioavailability.
Butcher's Broom (100 Capsules) Used in traditional herbal medicine for symptomatic relief of itching and burning associated with hemorrhoids and to relieve symptoms of discomfort and heaviness of legs related to minor venous circulatory disturbances.Conclusion
Peripheral artery disease reflects more on your lifestyle habits. Eating healthy foods low on fat can significantly reduce the chances of the disease.
If you suspect or believe that you have been on a poor diet, you need to visit your doctor to test your cholesterol level. Remember, some cases of peripheral artery disease can go undetected for lack of symptoms causing severe complications such as limb amputation.
You can make an appointment with us at Island Healthworks Clinic for consultation and blood and DNA testing to detect cholesterol levels and weaknesses in the genes. Talk to Yvonne Dollard Perc for over the phone consultation by calling 250-468-7685.
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Editor: Yvonne Dollard Perc
Research Assistant: Elizabeth Njuguna
Designer: Sherry Robb
This article is intended for educational purposes and the information contained within is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any disease or health problem. Please seek appropriate medical attention for any health complaints. We cannot take responsibility for your health care decisions. Our intent is only to offer health information to help you with your search for better health.