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What are the symptoms?

Some individuals with peripheral artery disease may have no symptoms at all. Others may experience pain or muscular cramps in the legs whilst performing a physical activity. It is common for the pain to disappear at rest, this is called claudication. Other symptoms include:

  • Pain, heaviness, numbness or fatigue in the leg that does not go away, even at rest
  • Wounds in the toes or feet that either heal slowly or do not heal at all
  • Gangrene or dead tissue
  • A noticeable decrease in temperature in a lower leg limb as compared to other limb or the rest of the body
  • Poor growth of nails or hair on the legs
  • Erectile dysfunction, especially in diabetic men

1. The non-modifiable risk factors are:

  • Age
  • Family history of peripheral artery disease
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Stroke

2. The modifiable risk factors are:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Overweight or obesity
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Physical inactivity

The first steps towards diagnosing peripheral artery disease is through medical history and physical examination. Other tests that may be performed include:

  • Ankle brachial index
  • Toe-tip and treadmill exercise tests
  • Doppler ultrasound
  • MRA (Magnetic Resonance Angiography)
  • CTA (Computed Tomographic Angiography)
  • Peripheral angiogram

Peripheral artery disease may be treated through lifestyle modifications, medications or surgical procedures if required.

  1. Lifestyle modifications include:
  • Stop smoking
  • Controlling diabetes, blood pressure levels and cholesterol levels
  • Being physically active for atleast 30 minutes on most days of the week
  • Eating a healthy diet low in saturated and transfats
  1. Medications prescribed include:
  • Antiplatelet agents (aspirin and/or clopidigrel) to prevent blood clots
  • Cholesterol-lowering medicine (statins)
  • Medicines to control high blood pressure
  1. Minimally invasive surgical procedures:
  • Coronary angioplasty: This a procedure to re-open the blocked artery and restore normal blood flow. A small deflated balloon is moved to the site of the blockage, inflated and then removed. If required, a stent may be placed to keep the artery open.