Some illnesses are relatively easy to detect. Others, not so much. When it comes to peripheral artery disease, symptoms can be really elusive. Which is why today we’re going to talk about what they are, and what to do when you see them.
What is peripheral artery disease?
Peripheral artery disease, or PAD, is a broad term that covers diseases of the blood vessels found outside of the heart and the brain. You might have also heard PAD referred to as peripheral arterial disease or even peripheral vascular disease (which includes the veins, too). Whichever name you use, the condition causes the arteries to narrow. That narrowing restricts the blood flow to the stomach, kidneys, arms and legs.
Patients who suffer from PAD are at serious risk of having a heart attack or stroke later down the line. That’s why knowing what to look for is crucial. Despite that, many people who have PAD don’t know it – because the symptoms can be very hard to identify.
Which is why we’re going to learn about them right now.
The warning signs of peripheral artery disease:
- Hair loss. Really. If you or another caregiver notice that your loved one has lost noticeable amounts of hair on their feet and legs, that’s a warning bell of PAD.
- Skin tone. The skin on the legs either changes color or becomes shiny.
- Claudication. This is probably the most easily identifiable PAD symptom. Claudication refers to pain or cramping in the calves, hips, or thighs while performing everyday activities like walking or climbing stairs. The pain can occur after physical activity, too.
- Sores. If you see sores on your loved one’s feet, legs or toes that are very slow to heal – or aren’t healing at all – seek medical attention.
- Cold feet. Literally, in this case. Another symptom of peripheral artery disease is when one leg or foot feels colder than the other.
- Brittle nails. Toenails that are brittle or grow very slowly.
- Weakness. A sensation of weakness or numbness in the legs. A related symptom is difficulty finding a pulse in the legs.
What to do if you suspect PAD?
If you think your loved one is presenting with peripheral artery disease symptoms, the first thing you should do – obviously – is contact their primary care physician. If your loved one lives in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility, you should alert the medical staff there, too. Don’t hesitate. Left untreated, PAD is a very dangerous condition. It’s far better to take a chance on sounding a false alarm.
Because when it’s caught in time, there is a lot your loved one can do to improve their health and live a long, healthy and happy life.