This health problem, also known as Obstructive Arterial Disease of the Limbs (PAOD), consists of the narrowing and hardening of the blood vessels that carry blood to the lower limbs of the body, that is, legs and feet. This usually occurs because these arteries are blocked by fatty plaques, which we call atheroma.

In this way, blood circulation in these regions is impaired and can cause more serious consequences, such as ulcers (wounds) on the legs and feet, as well as acute obstruction of these vessels causing ischemia, sometimes even requiring amputation. Patients with PAOD have an increased risk of myocardial infarction and stroke.

The main symptoms of PAOD include:

  • Pain in the legs, especially when walking (claudication);
  • Feeling of tiredness in the legs;
  • Cramps;
  • Slower hair growth on the lower limbs;
  • Whiter skin colour;
  • Slow growth of toenails; wounds on the legs and feet, in addition to constant infections;
  • In men, erectile dysfunction.

What can cause peripheral arterial disease?

The basis for this arterial disease is the accumulation of fatty plaques in the arteries. This is usually caused when there are high levels of “bad” cholesterol in the blood, called LDL.

In most cases, this situation occurs in people who eat unhealthy foods, with a lot of ultra-processed and canned products and people with a family history of high cholesterol. Furthermore, a sedentary lifestyle and obesity are other risk factors.

PAOD is also more common in smokers, patients who have already suffered a stroke, hypertensive, obese, diabetic patients and those over 50 years of age.

Available treatments

Unfortunately, PAOD does not have a definitive cure, but there are treatments. They aim to prevent fatty plaques from increasing, alleviate symptoms and also prevent any problems that poor circulation may cause, such as skin wounds.

In most cases, the doctor will recommend medications, changes in lifestyle habits (eating and smoking) and physical exercise. However, in more serious situations, angioplasty may be necessary. This is a surgery in which, using a small catheter, the specialist inflates a type of balloon into the affected damaged vessel, allowing it to open, restoring blood flow.

Avoid PAOD

  • have a healthy diet, with more fruits, vegetables and grains;
  • practice physical exercise, or take at least regular walks;
  • do not smoke;
  • maintain ideal weight;
  • carry out periodic check-ups of blood cholesterol levels;
  • control diabetes and hypertension.

Peripheral arterial disease: don’t be in doubt

Despite providing symptoms that can be considered “weak” when compared to other illnesses, peripheral arterial disease is serious and can generate serious problems. If you have any of the described symptoms or risk factors, consult a cardiologist or an angiologist.

As always, early diagnosis saves lives.

For more information please contact HPA Grupo Saude on (+351) 282 420 400.