You may think leg pain or a slow-healing wound is a normal part of aging. Not necessarily. That nagging ache may be your body's way of sending a warning signal that something more serious is going on.
Chronic muscle pain in the legs or foot sores that don’t heal are classic signs of peripheral arterial disease – or PAD.
Plumbing problems stop blood flow
Poor circulation causes PAD. In most cases, plaque builds up in arteries and reduces blood flow from the heart to legs and arms. It's the same plaque build-up that can lead to heart disease and stroke.
A blocked artery is like a water pipe clogged with rust and gunk that sticks to the inside walls. Water can't flow freely to the faucet. In the same way, plaque buildup in arteries restricts blood from flowing easily to fingers, toes and parts in between.
"PAD symptoms can be vague and may appear related to other issues," Nathaniel Dew, MD, Vascular Surgeon at Goshen Wound & Hyperbaric Center, explained. "Wounds that are slow to heal can lead to gangrene and even amputation if not treated immediately."
One in eight Americans over the age of 60 has PAD. But more than a third of those adults are unaware they have the disease.
Know your personal risk for PAD
You may think if your doctor doesn't mention PAD, it's not an issue. Instead, be your own advocate. That means recognizing that the risk for PAD goes up with age. If you smoke (or have smoked), have diabetes or are obese, your chances of developing PAD increase.
Symptoms of PAD usually don't go away by themselves. Pain when walking may lead to more sitting and less moving. Without physical activity, plaque buildup worsens, blood flow slows down, and pain increases, even at rest.
Early diagnosis and treatment make a big difference with PAD. Ask your doctor about your risk for developing the disease.
Warning signs of PAD
Give yourself a quick check-up for signs of PAD. If you notice any of these symptoms, talk with your doctor.
- Smooth, shiny skin on your legs (caused by reduced oxygen flow)
- Leg pain, numbness or fatigue, especially when walking
- Toe pain
- Slow-healing wounds or sores on your legs
- Cramping in the lower leg – called claudication
Goshen Wound & Hyperbaric Center offers tests for PAD, treats chronic wounds that may have underlying conditions of PAD, and counsels patients on how to manage PAD. For more information, click here or call (574) 364-4560 with your questions.