What is Peripheral Artery Disease?

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Around 8.5 million people in the United States have a condition called peripheral artery disease (PAD). The condition affects blood flow in certain parts of the body, including to some major organs. Having it puts older adults at greater risk for stroke and heart attack. If your aging relative has recently been told they have PAD, you might be wondering what it is and what it means to their health.

About PAD

PAD is a common disease that causes restricted blood flow to a person’s limbs because the arteries become narrower than normal. It most commonly affects the legs. Many people who have PAD feel pain in their legs when they walk. Other symptoms of PAD include:

  • Losing hair on the legs or feet.
  • A weak feeling in the legs.
  • Coldness in feet or legs.
  • Brittle toenails or toenails that grow slowly.
  • Sores on legs and feet that heal very slowly.
  • Trouble locating the pulse in legs or feet.

PAD can be a sign of a more serious condition called atherosclerosis, which is a build up of fatty deposits, or plagues, throughout the body. This condition can cause a reduction in blood flow to the brain and heart.

PAD Causes

Older adults are at greater risk for getting PAD. So, even if your aging relative hasn’t been diagnosed with PAD, they should be screened for it. Those who smoke or who have diabetes are at an even greater risk. Other risk factors for PAD are:

  • Obesity.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Family history of PAD, heart disease, or stroke.

The cause of PAD is most often atherosclerosis. Usually, people focus on how atherosclerosis affects the heart, but it harms arteries all over the body. However, some people with PAD do not have atherosclerosis. It can also be caused by inflammation in blood vessels, an injury, radiation, or abnormally formed muscles or ligaments.

Complications of PAD

People with PAD are at risk for serious health conditions, including:

  • Heart Attack and Stroke: When PAD is caused by atherosclerosis, blood flow to the brain or heart may be cut off, causing a stroke or heart attack leading to the need for rehabilitation.
  • Critical Limb Ischemia: The older adult may develop sores or ulcers on their feet or legs that do not heal. This can lead to infection, gangrene, and possible amputation.

When an older adult is diagnosed with PAD, the doctor may suggest lifestyle changes to manage the disease. Elderly care provider can assist with making the changes. An elderly care provider can help the senior to engage in regular exercise, such as walking. If the senior smokes, an elderly care provider can encourage them to quit by following the doctor’s advice for smoking cessation. Elderly care providers can also prepare healthy meals that help to reduce cholesterol levels and lower high blood pressure.



If you or an aging loved one are considering elder care in Herndon, VA, please contact the caring staff at Assisting Hands today. (703) 982-0050.