What is Peripheral Arterial Disease?
PAD/PVD (Peripheral Arterial (Peripheral Vascular) Disease) can be very serious. Fortunately, there are many professionals patients can seek to provide ways to prevent and treat this condition. Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD), also known as Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD), is a condition where many of the arteries in the patient narrow, reducing blood flow and circulation to the limbs. The patient may suffer from symptoms such as leg pain when walking.
PAD or PVD can also be a symptom of a larger problem: atherosclerosis. Allowing fatty deposits in the arteries to become widespread can, in turn, negatively affect the heart and the brain. The body works best when nothing impedes its regular functioning, and even small, internal blockages can seriously affect the patient’s health in the long term.1 Plaque that builds up is made of fat, cholesterol, fibrous tissue, and calcium. Leaving the plaque to harden inside the body can make the arteries even more narrow.
PAD can affect the kidneys, stomach, arms, head, and heart, as well as the legs. Besides leg pain, the patient could experience loss of feeling and numbness in the limbs. Another complication of PVD is that the body will struggle with the regular task of fighting invading infections; also, tissue death, also known as gangrene, and leg amputation could result from Peripheral Vascular Disease. PVD/PAD can lead to heart disease and strokes.2
Other Potential Causes and Signs of PAD/PVD
The number one risk factor of any patient developing an onset of PAD/PVD is smoking.3 Other risk factors include obesity, which is defined by the patient having a BMI of 25 or more, diabetes, physical inactivity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. While those can be controlled, other, inherent factors such as aging, family history, cannot.4
Some patients may show no symptoms of PAD, while others might have “intermittent claudication”, or pain and cramping in the arms and legs during exercise, but not when they are resting. Calf pain from walking is a common sign. Other patients may have a more serious condition where the pain occurs during rest. This typically occurs at night, when lying down face up. Other signs of PVD are weakness and muscle atrophy, numb or cold extremities, hair loss and color change of the feet, thickened toenails, and painful ulcers, which generally affect the toes.5
It is of utmost importance, first and foremost, that the PAD/PVD patients quit smoking. From there, medical management of the other risk factors, diabetes, hypertension, and cholesterol, will occur. Doctors may prescribe antiplatelet drugs and statins to reduce the presence of clots and cholesterol. Patients will also need to engage in a regular exercise routine, such as treadmill exercising or walking outside in a brisk manner. This is to encourage the opening and flow of alternative small vessels. Other prescribed medications include cilostazol and pentoxifylline to relieve claudication symptoms.
There are surgical treatments as well, for cases that do not respond to the standard methods of treatment after a certain amount of time. Surgical treatments include the likes of plaque excision, bypass grafting, and even amputation.6
In addition to medical treatments, patients should engage in lifestyle changes for the prevention and treatment of PAD/PVD. Smoking cessation, exercising, aiming for a healthy weight, and eating a healthy diet are all helpful in preventing and treating this disorder. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are part of a healthy diet. Patients who are unsure about the changes that they need to make could consult both traditional and alternative practitioners of medicine to learn of what they need to modify about their lifestyle.7
Some dietary supplements can also be beneficial in the treatment of PVD/PAD. Inositol hexaniacinate, a form of vitamin B3, can reduce cholesterol. Garlic can act as a form of inhibition towards platelet aggregation, making the platelets less sticky and less prone to forming blockages. Vitamin B6 can inhibit clotting, lower blood pressure, and decrease homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is used to evaluate cardiovascular disease risk. Before taking anything, the patient should discuss the exact amounts and regularity of the supplements dosages with a healthcare professional. Any changes should be gradual unless the patient is instructed otherwise, in order to observe the effects of dietary supplements or other new additions to the patient’s daily routine.8
Airplane Travel and PAD
Airplane travel can increase clot risk in patients who already have PAD, so they may need to wear compression stockings, walk around, if such an option is possible during their flight, avoid alcohol and watch their fluid intake if a plane ride cannot be avoided. Patients who have concerns about how their condition will interact with travel should check with their doctor to learn preventative measures and safety precautions.9