WHAT IS PERIPHERAL ARTERIAL DISEASE?
Commonly referred to as poor circulation, Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is the restriction of blood flow in the arteries of the leg. When arteries become narrowed by plaque (the accumulation of cholesterol and other materials on the walls of the arteries), the blood flowing through the arteries cannot reach the legs and feet.
Common symptoms of PAD include: Leg pain (cramping) that occurs while walking, leg pain (cramping) that occurs while lying down (rest pain), leg numbness or weakness, cold legs or feet, sores that will not heal on toes, feet or legs, a change in leg color, loss of hair on the feet and legs, and changes in toenail color and thickness.
PAD RISK FACTORS
The risk factors include: being over the age of 50, smoking (current or prior history), diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart conditions, personal history of heart attack or stroke, and sedentary lifestyle.
Several noninvasive tests are available to assess PAD. The ankle-brachial index (ABI) is a simple test in which blood pressure is measured and compared at the arm and ankle levels. An abnormal ABI is a reliable indicator of underlying PAD and may prompt the foot and ankle surgeon to refer the patient to a vascular specialist for additional testing and treatment as necessary.
PAD & FOOT PROBLEMS
Simple foot deformities (hammertoes, bunions, bony prominences) or dermatologic conditions, such as ingrown or thickened fungal nails, often become more serious concerns when PAD is present. Because the legs and feet of someone with PAD do not have normal blood flow—and because blood is necessary for healing—seemingly small problems, such as cuts, blisters or sores, can result in serious complications. When neuropathy occurs in people with PAD, ulcers can develop over foot deformities and may never heal. For this reason, PAD and diabetes are common causes of foot or leg amputations in the United States.
Once detected, PAD may be corrected or at least improved. The foot and ankle surgeon can then correct the underlying foot deformity to prevent future problems should the circulation become seriously restricted again.