Peripheral Arterial Disease

Peripheral Arterial Disease is a common secondary disease that follows Atherosclerosis. Once so much plaque builds up in the arteries, they become block the blood flow. P. A. D. usually affects the lower extremities and can cause intermittent claudication and, if severe enough, gangrene. Many people live with atherosclerosis and P. A. D. and show no symptoms. There are numerous prevention methods for P. A. D that is similar to preventing any cardiovascular disease. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is by far, the best form of prevention.

Peripheral Arterial Disease Peripheral Arterial Disease or P. A. D. is a disorder that can occur when Atherosclerosis is present. Atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque builds up inside the arteries. Plaque is mostly made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. Eventually, the plaque hardens and narrows the arteries, which in turn limits the flow of the oxygen-rich blood to the organs and other parts of the body. Atherosclerosis can affect any artery in the body; therefore, PAD occurs when the major arteries that supply blood to the legs, arms, and pelvis become blocked.

Peripheral Arterial Disease of the inferior arteries can cause pain when walking in the hips, buttocks, thighs, knees, and shins. (CDC) To understand more about this disease, it is important to understand the normal function of the descending abdominal aorta. The Cardiovascular System in Health and Disease In a homeostasis state, oxygenated blood flows from the heart into the aorta, which has 4 sections.

The abdominal aorta splits into the right and left common iliac arteries that supply the pelvic organs, thigh, and lower extremities. Saunders, 2007) The arteries then split again in the inguinal region into the femoral arteries and other small arteries. At the knee, they split once again into the anterior tibial artery and the posterior tibial artery. The anterior tibial artery becomes the dorsalis pedis artery in the foot. The veins then carry the un-oxygenated blood back to the heart. Once enough plaque has built up, the legs do not receive enough oxygen and symptoms may be prevalent. One of the most common early symptoms is intermittent claudication.

Intermittent claudication is pain in the legs, specifically the muscles, when walking but goes away when at rest. The pain may also be a feeling of tightness, cramping, and fatigue in the leg. In an advanced PAD state, a symptom called Ischemia may occur. Ischemia occurs when the legs do not get enough oxygen, even in the resting period. (Saunders, 2007) One of the most severe symptoms is painful sores on the toes and/or feet. At this point it is critical to improve lower extremity circulation. If left unattended, the ulcers can become gangrened. Diagnosis

To find a diagnosis this disease, a doctor may ask how long and how often symptoms occur, history of hypertension, and tobacco use. The doctor may also perform a pulse test which will measure the strength of the pulse in the popliteal and dorsalis pedis arteries. If PAD is suspected, some other tests that may have to be run include an Ankle-Brachial Index which will compare the blood pressure between the arms and legs, blood tests to check for cholesterol and other fatty deposits that might be in the blood. Treatment Most cases of PAD can be treated with lifestyle changes and medications.

Some lifestyle changes that would dramatically reduce symptoms and reduce the risk of acquiring this disease can include being physically active, eating a low cholesterol – low saturated fat diet, controlling blood pressure and diabetes (if applicable), and to quit smoking! Certain medications can help treating PAD. Anti-platelet agents and statins may be prescribed. Anti-platelet agents make the blood platelets less likely to stick to one another and form blood clots; a low dose aspirin regimen is usually prescribed. Aspirin also helps prevent strokes and heart attacks in individuals diagnosed with PAD.

Statin medications will also help prevent the risk of strokes and heart attacks. Statins will decrease plaque buildup in the arteries and improve the painful symptoms. In more severe cases, angioplasty may be the only solution to the problem. Angioplasty is non-surgical and can widen narrowed or blocked arteries. The procedure is done by inserting a catheter into the groin area and moved to the area of narrowing, and then a small balloon is inflated to open the artery. Prevention As with all cardiovascular diseases, Peripheral Arterial Disease can be easily prevented.

A good heart healthy diet should be implemented everyday for meals and snacks. A good tip is to include fresh fruits and vegetables everyday. Eating foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high blood cholesterol. Limiting salt or sodium in your diet can also lower your blood pressure. (CDC, 2009) Making sure to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day can not only help maintain a healthy weight, but can greatly lower high cholesterol. Also limit the amount of alcohol intake. Alcohol increases blood pressure and affects the absorption of calcium and magnesium (from food).

These nutrients are very important to maintain a healthy weight and help to lower blood pressure. For the health of all people, don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking causes immediate and long term affects on the body. Some related to cardiovascular diseases and Peripheral Arterial Disease can include, but are not limited to, immediate and long term increase of blood pressure, reduces cardiac output, changes the properties in blood flow by allowing fatty substances to build up, more than doubles the risk of ischemic stroke, and stimulates the blood clotting process.

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