By Dustin L. Kruse, DPM
Clogged drain pipes are ineffective and actually prevent a drain from doing its job. They keep any flow limited to a trickle. Most people know the symptoms—your sink or tub backs up and fills with water instead of draining right away. You can develop the same kind of problem in your blood vessels. Your blood needs to be able to flow smoothly and continuously throughout the body and back to the heart. When the blood vessels are clogged up, your circulation is sharply limited and you develop something called peripheral arterial disease, or PAD.
Blocking the Blood Flow
Peripheral arterial disease is a problem with plaque build-up in the arteries leading to your extremities. Over an extended period of time, the blood vessel walls are lined with the sticky substance, becoming hardened and narrow. With less room for the necessary oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to flow through to your limbs, your circulation suffers and you experience all sorts of unpleasant symptoms.
The legs and feet are particularly vulnerable to this condition. Being so far away from the heart, the feet are prone to poor circulation anyway. When the arteries clog up, it exacerbates the problem and creates many additional issues. Blood flow problems could also lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Signs and Symptoms of PAD
Since the blood flowing to your feet and legs is restricted, your lower limbs aren’t able to get the full amount of oxygen and nutrients they need. Symptoms for this develop slowly, as the arteries become more and more blocked. Typically you first notice pain or cramping in your feet and legs when you’re active. This is called intermittent claudication. Normally the discomfort disappears when you rest and your tissues are able to regain oxygen. As circulation worsens, however, you’ll notice the pain and cramping appears more frequently and sooner during your activities, as well as lasting longer.
The more advanced the condition becomes, the more symptoms appear. Your feet may start to feel weak or even numb. Your lower limbs will feel cold more frequently and your skin may change color or lose hair. Since poor circulation impairs your immune system, you might be prone to slow-healing foot ulcers as well. Eventually your legs may cramp and hurt even when you’re at rest. If any of this is left untreated for too long, you risk permanent damage to your lower limbs.
Managing Your PAD
Because this disease can be uncomfortable and have serious consequences, you can’t afford to ignore it. Our team at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center will carefully examine your lower limbs to rule out other possible causes for your symptoms. Then we’ll work with you to develop a plan to manage the problem.
You’ll definitely need to make some lifestyle changes and work to accommodate the problems in your lower limbs. First and foremost, you’ll need to exercise to improve your circulation. You’ll also need to eat healthily and avoid tobacco to cut down on plaque build-up. You’ll have to start inspecting your feet for abnormal changes and investing in regular care for them. You might need medications to improve blood flow, reduce your risk for blood clots, or even control blood pressure or cholesterol. In serious cases, you might require surgery.
Peripheral arterial disease can be quite serious, so you shouldn’t take it lightly. The sooner you take care of your lower limbs and your body, the less likely you’ll develop dangerous complications from your PAD. Let our team at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center in Wheat Ridge, CO, help you take care of your lower limbs and improve your discomfort. Make an appointment today through our online forms, or by calling (303) 423-2520.