Swelling in your legs is often nothing to be too concerned about, especially if you overdid it with exercise or suffered an injury to your leg. With time and healing, the swelling will go down.
However, a potentially serious condition that also causes swollen legs is something for which you should be seen by a medical professional promptly: peripheral artery disease, or PAD. It puts you at risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke, which is why getting an accurate diagnosis and treatment is critical. Around 8-12 million Americans live with PAD.
The talented podiatry team at Premier Foot & Ankle, with five convenient Texas locations, is highly skilled at diagnosing and creating customized treatment plans for people affected by PAD. The team’s patient-centered approach is designed to offer you the most advanced PAD treatments, education about lifestyle changes to improve your PAD symptoms, and more.
A deep dive into PAD
Peripheral artery disease develops when plaque — a substance containing fat and cholesterol — accumulates in your leg arteries. It’s the job of your arteries to take oxygen and blood filled with nutrients from your heart to your arms and legs.
However, when plaque builds up inside your arteries, it makes them narrower, in turn slowing down your blood flow. This makes the process of supplying your arms and legs with the oxygen and nutrients they need less efficient. Another potential complication is that blood clots can develop around the plaque, which crowds your arteries even more.
When your arteries are narrowed to the point that they become blocked due to plaque buildup or a clot, your tissues and organs can no longer be nourished. In terms of your feet and legs, this puts you at risk for not just tissue damage, but tissue death, or gangrene, and amputation.
If these conditions snowball, sepsis can occur, which is life-threatening. Frequently, this happens in your toes and feet.
You’re at higher risk for PAD if you:
- Are 50 years of age or older
- Are African American
- Live with diabetes, high blood pressure, or kidney disease
- Have a high percentage of abdominal fat
- Have a blood clotting disorder
- Have high cholesterol
- Have a family or personal history of blood vessel or heart disease
- Are a tobacco user
Though many of these risk factors are unmodifiable, like family history, age, and race, you can work on losing abdominal fat, lowering your cholesterol, and quitting smoking to lower your risk for PAD.
Unfortunately, PAD is often undiagnosed and, in turn, untreated. This is very concerning, since a person with PAD is 6-7 times more likely to suffer from coronary artery disease and have a heart attack or stroke. A person living with heart disease also has a one in three probability of suffering from PAD in their legs.
In addition to leg swelling, PAD symptoms include numbness, cramps, pain, and skin discoloration or a shiny appearance. You might also have pain while walking that abates when you rest.
Early discovery of PAD is essential
Since PAD can lead to such serious health consequences and you may suffer from symptoms that you’ve been discounting or mistaking for something else, it’s a good idea to be checked out by your trusted Premier Foot & Ankle podiatrist for PAD risk factors.
Fortunately, we offer advanced, noninvasive PAD testing through the PADnet® screening system, which detects chronic venous problems. During this screening, we use blood pressure cuffs along with a computer to determine your blood pressure and your ankle-brachial index (ABI), a comparative reading of the blood pressure in your ankle and your arm.
The platform also produces pulse volume recording (PVR) waveforms, which reflect the blood flow and pressure in your legs. This test points your doctor to areas in your leg where an artery may have a partial blockage.
Once you receive a definitive PAD diagnosis, you and your doctor can talk about treatments and lifestyle habits to help get your condition under control.
Don’t delay calling our office most convenient to you and scheduling an appointment, or use our convenient online booking tool.