Dealing With Peripheral Artery Disease

September 29, 2021

Peripheral artery disease is a common problem faced by many, including avid golfers. It is a circulatory problem. Your blood flow does not keep up with demand. It may also be a sign of a buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries, which can reduce blood flow to your legs and arms.

As you can imagine, this can impact your golf game — along with your day-to-day life. For example, you may experience leg pain when walking, which will make it difficult for you to get around. That will make playing golf more challenging.

What to watch for

While people do not exhibit symptoms of peripheral artery disease, or they experience mild symptoms, others do. Signs and symptoms of peripheral artery disease include:

  • Painful cramping in your hips, thighs or calf muscles after participating in activities like walking or climbing stairs. This is called claudication, and it gets better after a few minutes of rest. Claudication can be mild or debilitating. Severity varies.
  • Leg numbness or weakness
  • Coldness in your lower leg or foot
  • Sores on your toes, feet or legs that won't heal
  • A change in leg color
  • Hair loss, or slower hair growth, on your feet and legs
  • Slower growth of your toenails
  • Shiny skin on your legs
  • No pulse, or a weak pulse, in your legs or feet
  • Erectile dysfunction (men)
  • Pain when using your arms to do manual tasks, such as writing

Note: If peripheral artery disease progresses, you may experience pain when at rest or lying down, and it could interfere with sleep.

Don’t ignore leg pain or numbness, or any of the other signs and symptoms of peripheral artery disease. It’s best to contact your primary care provider to discuss your concerns. They may refer you to a vascular surgeon who will perform a physical exam and may use certain tests to make a diagnosis, such as the ankle-brachial index — a test that compares the blood pressure in your ankle with the blood pressure in your arm.

Are you at risk?

Risk factors for peripheral artery disease include:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity (a body mass index over 30)
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Age (You have a greater risk as you get older.)
  • A family history of peripheral artery disease, heart disease or stroke
  • High levels of homocysteine, an amino acid
What you can do

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very important when trying to prevent, or treat, peripheral artery disease.

If you smoke, quit! If you have diabetes, make sure you control your blood sugar. Exercise regularly, keep your cholesterol and blood pressure levels low, eat healthy foods that are low in saturated fat and maintain a healthy weight.

If you do get peripheral artery disease and experience claudication, try hanging your legs over the edge of your bed, or walk around. This may temporarily relieve any pain. Your doctor may also prescribe medications and recommend surgery.

How Middlesex can help

All of Middlesex Health’s vascular surgeons are part of The Vascular Experts. This team of board-certified surgeons are solely dedicated to vascular care, and they can handle simple or complicated cases. They diagnose and treat vascular conditions, such as peripheral artery disease. If surgery is needed, they use state-of-the-art equipment in the diagnostic and interventional suite located at Middlesex Hospital in Middletown.

For more information about Middlesex Health’s vascular surgeons, click here.

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