Current Treatments for Peripheral Artery Disease
How to Treat Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a medical condition in which the peripheral arteries that supply blood to the limbs narrow and restrict blood flow. The narrowing is caused by fatty deposits building up on the inner walls of the arteries, narrowing the channel that blood flows through. This disease is fairly common and can be treated effectively if it is caught early and it is taken seriously.Treatment will likely require both medical interventions and changes to your lifestyle.
Treating Peripheral Artery Disease with Lifestyle Changes
Lower your cholesterol.One way to treat PAD is to decrease your cholesterol. This can be done with medication, but it can also be done by changing your diet. A diet low in bad cholesterol is a good start.
- There are some foods that can really help lower cholesterol. They either bond to cholesterol and help get it out of the body, directly lower cholesterol, or block cholesterol from being absorbed by the body. These include: oats, whole grains, beans, eggplant, okra, nuts, vegetable oils, fruits high in pectin, and fiber supplements.
- Fried foods are a huge source of clogging fats; avoid these.
Decrease your blood pressure.In addition to lowering your cholesterol, it's important to lower your blood pressure. To lower blood pressure you should take blood pressure medication and adopt a low fat and low sodium diet.Also, lowering your stress can help to lower your blood pressure as well.
- It can also help your blood pressure to stop smoking and to drink alcohol only in moderation.
Exercise more often.Changing your lifestyle to treat your PAD means that you will need to get moving, literally. Exercise can help to reduce your cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight, but it can also directly help the blood circulation in your limbs as well.
- You can start off slowly by just taking a short walk every day or doing some simple leg exercises at home. Building up to longer or more strenuous amounts of exercise is better than doing too much right away and then getting frustrated.
- Consult with your doctor about your overall fitness level and your overall health. Your doctor may have some suggestions for exercise plans or additional experts to consult.
Quit smoking as soon as possible.Smoking is a large risk factor for PAD, and quitting now can help your condition if you have already been diagnosed. Start a smoking cessation plan today and discuss it with your doctor, so that you can get the support that you need.
- There are a variety of products that can be used to help you quit smoking, including nicotine patches and gum. Discuss your options with your doctor so that you can make an informed decision about what will help you the most.
Treating Peripheral Artery Disease Medically
Get a medical diagnosis.In order for a doctor to treat your PAD medically, they will need to assess the severity of your condition. In order to diagnose PAD, the doctor will need to do an ankle-brachial index test that compares the blood pressure in your foot and your arm. They will then do a imaging test to get a look at the actual blood flow in your limbs.
- Imaging tests used by doctors to diagnose PAD include CT scans, ultrasounds, MRI scans, and angiography.
Take medication.If you are diagnosed with PAD it is likely that your doctor will put you on medication that will lower your cholesterol and your blood pressure. Additionally, your doctor may prescribe medication to prevent blood clots, as clots can occur more easily in arteries that are abnormally restricted.
- Even if you plan on working to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure through diet and exercise, you will still need to take medication in the mean time.
- To prevent blood clots your doctor may tell you to take aspirin or may prescribe clopidogrel (Plavix). In order to treat symptoms they may also prescribe cilostazol (Pletal), which increases blood flow by thinning the blood and widening the blood vessels.
Consider getting a medical procedure done.For cases of PAD that are very serious, you may need to consider getting a minimally-invasive procedure done to correct the problem. This is not done for mild cases of PAD, but if blood flow to the limbs is severely compromised, your doctor may suggest it.
- There are several types of procedures done for treating PAD. They include: going into the artery and cleaning the plaque out of it, putting stents in the arteries to keep them open, or having a bypass graft surgically implanted to go around the blockage in the arteries.
Recognizing Peripheral Artery Disease
Pay attention to pain and numbness in your limbs.PAD can cause your limbs to go numb or it can cause them to be painful. For example, you may have leg pain when you walk or climb stairs.
- If you are older, don't assume that leg pain is just part of aging. Have your legs checked out by a doctor to make sure that you don't have PAD.
Notice when infections take a long time to heal.If you get a cut or an injury on your limbs, it may take more time to heal if you have PAD. This is because of the decreased blood flow due to blockage in the arteries.
- In really severe cases of PAD, injuries to the limbs can develop into gangrene, which is tissue death.
- In the most severe cases, you can even lose a limb if PAD is left untreated.
Watch for other symptoms of PAD.Along with pain and sores that just won’t heal, PAD can have a variety of different symptoms. Some other symptoms you may notice include:
- Legs feel numb, cold, or weak.
- Color changes in your legs.
- Slow hair growth or hair loss on your legs.
- Slow toenail growth.
- Shiny patches of skin on your legs.
- Having a weak pulse in your legs.
- Erectile dysfunction (men).
Consider risk factors.There are some risk factors that could increase your chance of getting PAD. The main risk factors are smoking and diabetes. If you have both of these risk factors, you are more likely to get PAD.
- Additional risk factors that increase your risk of PAD include age, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a history of coronary heart disease, stroke, or metabolic syndrome.
Video: Peripheral Artery Disease: Mayo Clinic Radio
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