Peripheral Artery Disease and Pregnancy
For many years, it was believed that Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) was more common in men than in women. However, recent studies using more sensitive screening methods have found that PAD occurs just as frequently in women as it does in men; in fact, some research indicates that PAD may, in fact, be more prevalent in women.
While PAD can often be treated or properly managed with lifestyle changes, more advanced or severe cases can require a more rigorous approach. However, there are distinct differences between men and women which can make it more difficult for medical providers to properly treat PAD in women; for example, men and women have different responses to revascularization treatments.
And unlike men, female patients may also need to contend with any complications that PAD may cause in pregnancy. Such an event is unlikely, as most PAD sufferers are over the age of 70 — 50 if they have a history of diabetes or smoking. In fact, generally speaking, research has shown that it is more common for complications during pregnancy to eventually lead to PAD in female patients (and not the other way around).
However, PAD can still occur in women under the age of 50 — particularly if they have a family history of PAD or if they themselves have a medical history of diabetes, smoking, obesity, and/or high blood pressure. A medical history of the type most often found in women at risk of PAD would also introduce potentially serious complications in pregnancy independent of PAD.
Beyond intermittent discomfort or pain in the legs or lower extremities (already common in pregnant women), PAD itself typically does not affect pregnancy. The underlying condition that leads to PAD — atherosclerosis — can impact pregnancy, particularly when pregnant women experience chest pain.
Women with atherosclerosis are at an increased risk for angina, the symptoms of which can mimic that of heartburn. And because heartburn is common in pregnant women, female patients with atherosclerosis may mistake angina for heartburn and forego treatment, posing a serious risk to their health
The individuals most likely to suffer from PAD under the age of 50 likely also suffer from a host of comorbidities that pose a much greater — and more direct — threat to a fetus, and those conditions should be addressed as soon as possible. So while PAD should not be of particular concern to pregnant women, its symptoms (particularly shiny skin on the legs, discoloration of the lower limbs, and/or coldness or numbness in the legs, feet and toes) may point to a more serious medical condition that requires immediate attention.
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How Can Pad Affect Pregnant Women