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What is Peripheral Arterial Disease?

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a chronic disease usually due to atherosclerosis, when the atheromatous plaque cause thickening of the arterial wall, resulting in narrowing or occlusion of the arteries. This problem can occur in all arteries from the body, but one of the commonest site is the arteries of the legs.

What are the risk factors of PAD?

The following are the risk factors of atherosclerosis and its associated diseases which could increase the risk of developing cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases.

These include:

  • Aging (over 50 years old);
  • Smoking;
  • High cholesterol;
  • Diabetes;
  • High blood pressure;
  • Chronic kidney disease;
  • High plasma levels of homocysteine elevated fibrinogen concentration;
  • Personal history of vascular disease, heart attack or stroke, and
  • Family history of premature atherosclerosis.

Patients with PAD are suggested to have evaluation and control of underlying cardio and cerebrovascular diseases, and atherosclerosis risk factors.

Clinical Classification of PAD

The varieties of signs and symptoms present help doctor to stage the severity of PAD for patients. The most commonly used methods are the Fontaine and Rutherford classification which classify the disease based on the following 4 categories of symptoms:

Asymptomatic: Most of the patients are asymptomatic, but with clinical examination such as palpation and checking the Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI) may reveal cold extremities, and other signs of incomplete blood vessels obstruction.

Intermittent Claudication (IC): Fatigue; heaviness; tiredness or cramping in the lower extremity precipitated by walking or exercise and relieved with rest. The location of the pain depends on the site of occlusion of the artery, but the commonest site is at the calf.

Critical Limb Ischaemia (CLI): Leg pain persist even at rest; decrease temperature of leg; toe or leg sores, wounds that do not heal, or heal very slowly; loss of hair on the skin; brittle nail, with absent or diminished pulse in the legs. Patients in this condition must be referred to a vascular surgeon ASAP to prevent limb loss.

Ulceration or gangrene: Minor to major tissue loss due to severe arterial occlusion, with non-healing wound in foot & ankle, or the toes turn black in color. Patients with this condition must be urgently referred to a vascular surgeon for revascularization in order to salvage the limb.