Blood vessels are highways through your body that allow oxygen and nutrients to reach all your tissues. Like roads, they can get blocked up and slow down the “traffic.” Imagine a large tree has fallen across two lanes of a busy, three-lane highway. The whole road will back up quickly as cars have to squish down into a single lane to get around the block. This happens to your blood when you have peripheral arterial disease.
Blockage in Your Body’s “Highway”
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a problem with narrowed, blocked up blood vessels travelling into your extremities. Arteries bring oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to your tissues. When blood flow is blocked up, it slows down and limits how much reaches your lower limbs. This can quickly become problematic, particularly if the block is serious. The tissues in the affected lower limb become oxygen and nutrient deprived, weakening them.
Typically the blockage is caused by deposits of fat lining the vessels. These deposits, called “plaques,” build up over time and progressively narrow and stiffen your arteries. You might not notice any problems, particularly at first. As the arteries become more blocked, however, your feet will slowly lose the nutrients they need. Then, when you’re active and need a lot of oxygen-rich blood, it isn’t available and you feel the discomfort.
The Pain of One-Lane Traffic
Typically the first symptoms don’t appear until much later in life, though the problem has usually been developing over many years. Intermittent claudication is usually the first sign. This means your feet and legs cramp and ache whenever you’re active. The discomfort disappears when you rest, then returns when you’re active again. This is because your muscles are deprived of the extra oxygen then need to function when they work hard. You might also notice some degrees of numbness, weakness, and limb fatigue.
As the problem gets worse, you might develop symptoms even when you’re at rest. Burning or aching in the feet or toes is common. Your feet might feel cold, or at least cool to the touch. Sometimes your skin becomes discolored because of the abnormal circulation. Your feet may develop slow-healing sores from small injuries. You might be vulnerable to infections, too, since your blood flow is tied to your immune system. Advanced peripheral arterial disease is quite serious and puts you at high risk for blood clots that could lead to a heart attack or stroke.
How to Help Improve the Flow
This condition can have an enormous impact on your foot health, comfort, and daily lifestyle, so it can’t be ignored. Dr. Darren Silvester and our team at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic will carefully evaluate your lower limbs to determine how serious the PAD has already become. We offer in-office testing to see if you have PAD. If you do have PAD, we will work with you to improve your life and foot function with this disease.
You will need to make some lifestyle changes. If you smoke, quitting will be vital, since tobacco products help stiffen your blood vessels. You’ll need to exercise on a regular basis. Exercise helps boost your circulation, which will be important for getting better blood flow to your feet. It will be uncomfortable at first, so we’ll help you establish a reasonable, foot-safe program that you can do that still benefits your body.
You’ll need to begin a healthy diet with low saturated fats to reduce the plaque build-up. If you have an underlying condition like diabetes, that will have to be treated aggressively as well. In some cases, you may need medicine to control blood pressure or cholesterol. For extreme PAD, you might need surgery to unblock arteries and restore healthy blood flow.
Blog Articles About PAD
Plenty of people have poor circulation in their feet from peripheral arterial disease. This doesn’t mean you should accept it and allow it to damage your lower limbs. Let Dr. Darren Silvester at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic in Pleasanton, TX, help you take care of your feet and keep them healthy. Call (830) 569-3338 or use our web request form to make an appointment with us.