The arteries in your body are responsible for carrying oxygenated blood to your tissue and organs so that you can move around and function as normal, but what happens when this flow becomes impaired? Well for starters, you might feel cold or tingly limbs, especially in your hands and feet. You might experience pain when you walk or stand up, which increases as time goes by. If you experience any of these symptoms for an extended period of time, then you might have peripheral artery disease, which occurs when there is a blockage in the arteries that affects blood flow to your limbs.
Peripheral artery disease can also occur as a result of too much plaque inside of the artery walls. In these cases, you’ll probably have high blood pressure as well, which means that the heart is trying to force the blood through your arteries. Over time this can not only lead to more damage, but can weaken your heart as well.
Atherosclerosis is the name for the condition where your arteries become obstructed or blocked. It is nothing more than a fancy term for the hardening of the arteries and development of plaque within them. Plaque sounds like something you’d find on your teeth, but in this case it refers to the cholesterol and other tissue that collects within the veins and arteries. Over time, if the cholesterol levels in your blood are too high, it starts to leave residue behind, which is how this condition comes about.
It manifests in symptoms of pain in your legs and arms and feelings of weakness or tingling. You might think that rest will heal you, but in reality it doesn’t help at all. There are some people that report tightness rather than pain, but the symptoms get worse with physical exertion. As the disease worsens, it becomes more and more difficult to carry on with daily activities. Since most people have never heard of peripheral artery disease, they might have a hard time explaining it to their doctor. However, if you try to explain the symptoms to the best of your ability, you doctor can begin tests to narrow down the condition.
Although we’ve already said that plaque buildup is the primary cause for peripheral artery disease, there are some other risk factors as well. Smokers and those with diabetes are also at risk for this condition. If you have high blood pressure or cholesterol, then this is something that you should worry about. Also, people that are overweight or obese often struggle with PAD. Your doctor can confirm the diagnosis by using a mixture of blood tests and blood pressure tests.
To treat peripheral artery disease, you might be offered a mix of medication and recommendations for a change in lifestyle. The first step is to lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels by switching to a healthy diet, getting exercise, and taking prescriptions as necessary. After that, your doctor will continually monitor your progression to see if the condition lightens up or stays the same. If it does not improve, your doctor will use more aggressive medications to help complement your diet and exercise routine.
As a last resort, your doctor might consider using artery opening tactics, such as a stent or a balloon. Although these will certainly help, you will need to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to keep them from needing to be used again in the future. There are other forms of surgery, such as bypass surgery that can be used if necessary, but most people try to avoid anything that severe unless there are not any other alternatives.
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