As blood flow is impacted, experts stated that “change in the skin” will begin to take place, notifying you of high cholesterol. Here is what to look out for. The first warning sign is when the skin feels colder than usual, described as “decreased skin temperature”. Experts at John Hopkins Medicine added that the skin on the legs and feet may appear “thin, brittle, [and] shiny”.
These changes in the skin are indicative of peripheral vascular disease, which is caused by excessive cholesterol.
“Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a slow and progressive circulation disorder,” the experts explained.
The main cause of peripheral vascular disease is atherosclerosis, which is the build-up of plaque, including cholesterol, in the artery walls.
“Blood clots may form on the artery walls, further decreasing the inner size of the blood vessel and block off major arteries,” the experts added.
While some people with the condition may experience no symptoms, one of the first signs is painful leg cramping that occurs with exercise and is relieved by rest.
This is known as intermittent claudication, where muscles require less blood flow during rest, hence why the cramping disappears.
Other indications include:
- Weak pulses in the legs and the feet
- Gangrene (dead tissue due to lack of blood flow)
- Hair loss on the legs
- Wounds that won’t heal over pressure points, such as heels or ankles
- Numbness, weakness, or heaviness in muscles
- Pain (described as burning or aching) at rest, commonly in the toes and at night while lying flat
- Paleness when the legs are elevated
- Reddish-blue discolouration of the extremities
- Restricted mobility
- Severe pain when the artery is very narrow or blocked
- Thickened, opaque toenails.
These symptoms can be due to other health conditions, so it’s important to see your doctor for a definite diagnosis.
Diagnostic tools may include an angiogram (an X-ray of the arteries and veins), and an ankle-brachial index that compares the blood pressure of the ankle compared to the arm.
Should peripheral artery disease be confirmed, treatment focuses on symptom control and halting the progression of the disease.
As such, the main aim is to lower the risk of a heart attack and stroke.
Lifestyle adjustments include regular exercise, proper nutrition, and not smoking.
Prescribed medication might include anti-platelet agents (i.e. blood thinners) and medicines that relax the blood vessel walls.
Surgery could also be an option, but your doctor will discuss the best treatments for you.
It is vital to address peripheral vascular disease, not only because of its risk of life-threatening complications, but also because of its impact on a person’s quality of life.
Left untreated, peripheral vascular disease can lead to “severe pain” in the feet and hands.
Furthermore, it could lead to restricted mobility because of pain and discomfort.
And it can also lead to limb amputation as blood flow is severely affected.
In order to reduce the risk of high cholesterol leading to peripheral vascular disease, you must avoid smoke at all costs.
“Quit smoking, including avoidance of secondhand smoke and use of any tobacco products,” the experts said.