Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) occurs when there is not enough blood reaching the tissues. This “blockage” can be the result of fatty deposits in the lining of the arteries and thickening of the walls of the arteries. This can be caused by many different diseases in particular smoking, hypertension, diabetes, atherosclerosis, obesity, and high cholesterol (among others). Signs and symptoms include cold feet and hands, discoloration of the skin, and cramping in the legs with walking. If left untreated the symptoms progress and you can wind up with skin breakdown (ulcerations), and infections which are slow to heal as there is not enough blood nourishing the tissues. Ultimately these conditions can lead to amputation of the affected limb or digits(s).
Treatments in this day and age are quite good. But nothing beats prevention. Treatment can include medications to open the clogged arteries, cholesterol lowering medications to help prevent deposition of fatty “plaques” and other medications to relax or “dilate” the arteries involved. More aggressive treatments include surgery to “bypass” or open the clogged arteries. Keeping the limbs clean, warm, dry and well lubricated can also help to prevent sores and the breakdown of the skin and its structures.
The best of all treatment is prevention. By this I mean cessation of smoking, and exercise to help lower blood pressure and prevent obesity. Proper eating habits and regular medical checkups can spot potential problems before they get to the point where skin breakdown and surgical intervention is necessary.
Painful toes and fingers, and numbness of the digits along with leg cramping with walking are not symptoms that should be ignored. Treated early and aggressively, PAD can be halted in its tracks.