Have you been recently diagnosed with peripheral artery disease, also known as PAD? Our team at Commonwealth Vein Center specializes in treating this painful condition. We proudly serve the Colonial Heights and Richmond, VA, areas and are ready to put our experience to work helping you manage and treat the symptoms of PAD.
What Is the Best Treatment for Peripheral Artery Disease?
With mild or early cases of peripheral artery disease, some simple lifestyle changes may be all that’s needed to reduce the plaque build-up in your arteries. Even if your case of peripheral artery requires medication, supporting the health of your body with diet and lifestyle changes can drastically improve your symptoms and help increase the effectiveness and longevity of your other treatments.
Put Down the Cigarettes
It’s a commonly known fact that smoking is bad for your lungs, but did you also know what it can do to your arteries? When you smoke, it can cause inflammation in your body. This swelling can make you more suspectable to plaque building up along the walls of your arteries. In fact, smoking cigarettes is considered one of the most significant risk factors when it comes to developing PAD.
Tweak Your Diet
To treat PAD, you have to address the buildup along your artery walls. Plaque is primarily made up of carbs and fatty deposits. When you reduce the processed carbs and sugars in your diet, you’ll be reducing the amount of plaque being manufactured. Reducing processed carbs and sugars can also help to reduce overall inflammation, which can further improve the symptoms of PAD.
Get Out and Get Moving
A good workout can seem like a daunting task, especially when the symptoms of PAD can sometimes make it painful to even move. Despite how it may feel, exercise is one of your best defenses against PAD. Not only can it help improve your symptoms over time, but it may also help to slow the progression of PAD.
Walking is widely accepted as helpful in managing PAD, but anything that gets you moving can also provide some of the same benefits. Before you launch off on a new exercise regime, always check with your doctor so you can plan out the best exercise program for you. A physical therapist may also be helpful, especially if you find walking painful.
Reduce Your Stress Levels
It’s no secret that stress is hard on the body. While stress reduction alone can’t be expected to treat PAD, higher stress levels have been indicated as a possible factor in the development of PAD.
By reducing stress, modifying your diet, cutting out unhealthy habits, and adding in some extra exercise, you will not only be supporting the overall health of your body, but these steps could prove significantly helpful in managing PAD.
Medications for PAD
While lifestyle changes can be very helpful in addressing the symptoms and severity of PAD, sometimes medication is necessary to reduce the plaque deposits within your arteries. When these deposits are brought down to a safer level, it should also decrease painful symptoms. If your body needs additional help in managing the symptoms or severity of PAD, there are several medications that can be used.
Antihypertensives are the most common type of drug used to treat PAD. Basically, they lower your blood pressure, which reduces the strain in your arteries. Having high blood pressure, or hypertension, can increase your risk level when it comes to PAD. It can also increase the risk of stroke and heart disease. Hypertension means that your blood is pushing up against your arteries with more force than is healthy.
This increased pressure can harm your arteries by damaging the artery walls. Damaged arteries are more prone to plaque buildup. If it is determined that you have high blood pressure, that will often be treated as a way to help prevent PAD, as well as used to help bring the symptoms of PAD back under control.
Another treatment used for PAD would be an ACE inhibitor such as ramipril. ACE inhibitors widen arteries by preventing the body’s production of a protein hormone called angiotensin II. This hormone causes arteries to narrow, so when angiotensin II levels are reduced, the arteries relax. This will free up your blood flow and may help your heart not to have to work so hard.
Management of Blood Lipid Levels
Statins are a type of medication used to lower blood lipid levels, such as triglycerides and cholesterol. Excess cholesterol is a significant component of the fatty deposits that can develop along artery walls. When cholesterol and triglyceride levels are lowered, there is less “waste” that ends up sticking to the walls of our arteries.
If the arteries have become severely narrowed and do not respond to other treatments, it may be time to consider angioplasty. During an angioplasty, a catheter will be used to insert a tiny device into the affected artery. This device has an inflatable portion of it. When inflated, it will compress the plaque out of the way and to the side, which will help increase blood flow through the artery.
In some cases, recipients of angioplasty may also have a mesh stent put in place to hold their artery open.
How to Know if You Are a Good Candidate for Angioplasty
While lifestyle changes and medication are the preferred treatments for PAD, when the blockage is severe and unresponsive, angioplasty may be the right call. An experienced doctor will be able to lay out your different treatment options and whether or not angioplasty is the right fit for your situation. They can also go over your concerns and help you fully understand the process.
What to Expect After Angioplasty Surgery
You can usually go home to rest after your surgery, as long as you have someone who can drive you there. For the first 24 hours after surgery, try to avoid stairs, bending, or squatting, and steer clear of tight-fitting clothes.
As you recover, you will be able to gradually return to your normal activities. It’s important to remember that each case is unique. Your doctor will help you determine when you can resume work, and a good timeline for your return to normal life. The last thing you want is a setback, so taking it easy and following the guidelines will help you recover as quickly as possible, so you can get back to enjoying your favorite activities.
FAQ for Peripheral Artery Disease
1. What Is PAD?
PAD affects peripheral artery disease. It occurs most commonly along the lower half of the body, but can also occur in any arteries outside of the heart. When these arteries narrow or become clogged, blood flow is hindered. This decrease in blood flow is what leads to the various symptoms associated with PAD.
2. What Is It Caused By?
The most common cause of PAD is plaque building up inside the arteries, but it can also be caused by anything that hinders blood flow throughout your arteries. Some of these alternative causes could be a blood clot, or a congenital defect affecting the arteries. Sometimes it could even be caused by an old injury to the symptomatic area; such as a leg injury.
3. How Can It Be Diagnosed?
If you are within the most common age group for PAD, your symptoms will often be the biggest indicator. A doctor will check the condition of your legs as well as any pain you are experiencing. At Commonwealth Vein Center, we can also run various tests to check your homocysteine, C-reactive protein, and cholesterol levels. It can also be helpful to compare the blood pressure of an affected joint, such as your ankle, to the blood pressure of your arm.
Another tool that can be very helpful in attaining a diagnosis would be an imaging test known as an angiogram. When the dye is injected into your artery, we will be able to follow the trail of the dye with an imaging device. It will allow us to actually see your blood flow and the structure of your arteries. Additional tools that may be used can include ultrasounds, x-rays, and computer or magnetic resonance angiography.
4. What Are the Most Common Symptoms?
Many people who are in the early stages of PAD are asymptomatic. You may not notice symptoms until your artery has narrowed a considerable amount. The first symptom to show up is usually cramping and discomfort in the calves, thigh, or buttocks that increases with activity and gets better once you’ve rested.
The cramping and pain of PAD can be accompanied by a feeling of numbness or weakness in the leg, almost like the leg is “falling asleep” due to the inhibited blood flow.
As PAD continues to develop, some additional symptoms may be:
- Color or texture changes to the skin of the legs
- Additional hip pain while walking
- Unusual hair loss on your legs and feet
- Toenails that are brittle or grow slowly
- Dull aching or burning pain in the lower body while lying flat
- A coldness that can affect the lower legs and your feet
- The development of sores and ulcers on the feet and legs
5. Who Is Most at Risk?
There are several risk factors that can make someone more likely to develop PAD. Some of these factors include:
- Having high blood pressure
- Having high cholesterol
- A diabetes diagnosis
- Another vascular disease diagnosis
- Other instances of PAD in the family history
- Smoking, or having previously done so
As age increases, so does the risk of PAD. Some patients can develop premature peripheral artery disease, which means they get diagnosed before they are 50 years old. However, a person who is 65 or older is the most at-risk age group for PAD. African Americans are more affected by PAD than other ethnicities, and men are considered slightly more at risk than women.
6. Are There Any Additional Dangers Associated With PAD?
PAD is unfortunately quite dangerous if it’s left untreated. The plaque deposits within the affected arteries could rupture and lead to a complete artery blockage. In Americans aged 60 or older, it is considered a leading cause of strokes and heart attacks.
Our Team Can Help You Tackle PAD
Dealing with peripheral artery richmond va and choosing between multiple treatment options can be overwhelming. Why not take on this process with a team that is armed with the knowledge and experience to help you make the best decision possible? We have locations in Colonial Heights and Richmond, VA, and we are dedicated to giving our patients the best experience possible. Contact Commonwealth Vein Center today to set up your consultation.