Peripheral Artery Disease

Annual Women's Health Section

This vascular condition can have serious complications for women if left untreated.

Understanding Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a circulatory disorder where narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs. When the arms and legs don’t receive enough blood, they may not function properly. PAD is a serious condition that often goes undiagnosed in women until symptoms present themselves.

If left untreated, peripheral artery disease can cause serious health problems, and amputation may become necessary to prevent further complications. Conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, transient ischemic attacks, and renal artery disease can all result from untreated PAD.

Causes and Symptoms

peripheral artery disease

PAD is caused by a atherosclerosis, which causes fatty deposits to build up on the artery walls and block vital blood flow to the limbs. Risk factors for atherosclerosis include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Those with PAD may develop numbness or weakness in the limbs; painful cramping in the hips or legs; sores that won’t heal; coldness in one leg; and pale or discolored feet.

Prevention and Treatment

Preventative measures can help lower the risk factors associated with PAD and include regular exercise, avoiding foods high in saturated fat, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and keeping blood sugar under control if you have diabetes. These lifestyle changes can also help treat PAD once it has already developed. Additionally, procedures such as angioplasty, stent placements, and atherectomies can help with prognosis.

If you are at risk for peripheral artery disease or are experiencing symptoms, consult with your doctor. An early diagnosis can ensure you receive proper treatment before more serious complications arise.

An Expert Weighs In

“Although there are many similarities between men and women when it comes to health-related topics, gender matters. Women who develop aneurysm disease from weakened arteries related to PAD have a higher risk of rupture. Also, women with diabetes or high cholesterol have a four times higher risk of symptomatic PAD. Don’t be afraid to learn about your body if you suspect PAD. An early diagnosis before the heart attack, stroke, or walking leg pain is critical, because all of these might be avoided if preventative treatments are started early.”
chris lesar
Chris LeSar, MD
Vascular Surgeon/CLI Specialist/Medical Director, Vascular Institute of Chattanooga

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