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Things to Consider if you have Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

May 21, 2024 -
Things to Consider if you have Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) affects around one in five over-55s in the UK. PAD is caused when fatty deposits build up in the arteries, reducing blood flow. It usually affects the legs first, but problems can spread. People with PAD have a higher risk of other serious conditions, including coronary heart disease and stroke.

People are more likely to develop PAD as they get older. Other risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes and a family history of vascular disease. Men and women are equally likely to be affected.

Spotting the symptoms of PAD

PAD symptoms tend to develop slowly, and many people make the mistake of dismissing or ignoring the early signs. These usually take the form of pain or aching in the legs while walking. In early stages, this discomfort is usually intermittent and disappears after a brief rest. 

Unfortunately, if left untreated, PAD symptoms become more serious. They can include the following:

  • Severe leg pain and difficulty walking
  • Numbness and weakness in the legs
  • Hair loss on legs and feet
  • Leg and foot ulcers that do not heal
  • Brittle or slow-growing toenails
  • Skin turning pale, blue or shiny
  • Muscle wastage in the legs
  • Erectile dysfunction

It is very important to consult a doctor if you think you might have PAD, and not to ignore the early signs. The condition can be treated, mostly through lifestyle change, but it needs to be caught early. Advanced PAD can lead to serious and life-threatening complications that might necessitate surgical intervention.

Mobility aids for people with PAD

The good news for people with PAD is that the condition can be slowed down and even reversed with the right lifestyle changes. These include eating healthily and giving up or moderating harmful activities like drinking and smoking. Even more important, though, is to get plenty of regular exercise.

The right mobility aids can help you to be more active while easing the pain and mitigating the risk of accident or injury. Ask your doctor or physiotherapist for advice on which aids and gadgets would be most helpful for you. The following are typically used by people who are living with PAD:

Walking frames – for those with severe PAD, or people recovering from surgery, getting moving is key to recovery, but the first few steps are the hardest. A walking frame provides sturdy and reassuring support.

man with quad caneCrutches – these are most commonly used by people who have had surgery and want to start getting around but cannot put their full weight on their legs. Crutches can be adjusted for height, and you can even get them in bright, cheerful colours. 

Walking sticks and canes – for milder cases of PAD, or for those who are recovering and are ready to graduate on from a frame or crutches, a walking stick is ideal. Some people start with two and then go down to one, or you could choose a quad cane with multiple points of contact for a little extra support.

Riser recliners – resting correctly is just as important as getting the right exercise when you have PAD. A riser recliner allows you to sit comfortably with your legs elevated, improving blood flow and easing any swelling or inflammation.

Bathroom aids – the bathroom is the most dangerous place in the house, and 200,000 bathroom accidents require medical assistance every year. PAD symptoms can make you less steady on your feet, so consider some simple bathroom aids such as a shower seat, grab handles and raised toilet seat to make it easier to take care of personal hygiene in safety and privacy.

Adjustable beds – doctors typically advise patients with PAD to elevate their legs above the heart while sleeping. A five-point adjustable bed is the ideal solution as it allows you to do so without causing discomfort in other areas such as the back and neck.

Choose mobility aids that help you manage PAD

PAD is a condition that needs to be carefully managed. Doing so can result in the symptoms easing and even improving. Choosing the right mobility aids is part of this process, but making the wrong choices can hinder recovery. For this reason, it is vital that you involve a healthcare professional such as your doctor, physical therapist or practice nurse in the decision-making process.

For more advice on living with PAD, we recommend British Heart Foundation and NHS advice

Jon Wade
Jon Wade

Jon has been working at CareCo since 2019. He uses his extensive product knowledge to provide insights and advice on the best mobility aids for every occasion.

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