Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a circulatory problem that develops when plaque builds up in the arteries that bring blood to your legs and feet. The plaque narrows your arteries, which reduces the blood flow. Although you might not notice PAD in its earliest stages, it can lead to serious complications 一 such as ulcers and amputation 一 if it's left untreated.
Because treatment can help reduce your risk of developing serious complications, Dr. Ruben Nieto wants you to know how to spot the signs of PAD so you can seek the podiatric care you need.
Learning to recognize the signs of PAD
Because PAD affects the circulation in your legs and feet, it’s common to experience symptoms that affect multiple areas of your lower limbs from your thighs down to your toes.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, you might be dealing with PAD:
- Muscle cramps in your thigh, hip, or calf muscles especially after walking or walking up a flight of stairs
- Coldness in your foot
- Numbness or weakness in your leg or foot
- Slow-healing wounds
- Skin changes, including discolored skin or shiny skin
- Hair loss on your leg and/or feet
- Slowed toenail growth
- Erectile dysfunction
- Heavy sensations in your leg muscles
- Weak pulse and lowered temperature in the affected limb
It’s important to remember that just because you have some of these symptoms doesn’t mean you have PAD, but you should have your symptoms evaluated because PAD can be serious. In addition to ulcers, untreated PAD can also lead to critical limb ischemia, a condition in which open sores lead to infections and tissue death (gangrene).
How is PAD diagnosed?
During your appointment, Dr. Nieto reviews all your symptoms and your medical history. Some of these symptoms are linked to multiple conditions. For example, foot numbness could be related to peripheral neuropathy, and erectile dysfunction is also caused by hormone imbalances.
Here at Diabetic Foot and Wound Center in Bakersfield, California, we can diagnose PAD after reviewing your symptoms, performing a physical exam, and reviewing the results of your carbon dioxide angiography. A CO2 angiography is a diagnostic imaging test that uses carbon dioxide (rather than an iodine-based contrast medium) to provide images of your arteries.
How is PAD treated?
Once Dr. Nieto determines that your symptoms are related to PAD, he recommends the right treatments for you. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, potential treatments include:
- Lifestyle changes, including losing weight (if necessary), following a healthy diet, and smoking cessation
- Exercising regularly
- Managing underlying conditions, such as diabetes
- Wound debridement for any ulcers that may have developed
- Stent placement to open up your veins and encourage proper blood flow to your limbs
- Minimally invasive laser atherectomy to remove plaque from your arteries
To learn more about PAD or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Ruben Nieto, call us at 661-238-7526 or use our online scheduling tool.