Peripheral artery disease (PAD) affects more than 8.5 million Americans. Most don't know they have the condition. Are you one of them?
PAD is a common circulatory problem that happens when there's a narrowing of blood vessels outside your heart, reducing blood flow to your limbs. When this happens, your extremities don't receive enough blood flow – leading to symptoms like leg pain when walking or being active. PAD is caused by atherosclerosis, or a buildup of plaque on the interior walls of the arteries that pump blood to your arms and legs.
IS PAD DANGEROUS?
In one word – yes. Fatty deposits that build up in the inner lining of your arteries can lead to blockages that restrict blood flow to the arteries leading to your stomach, arms, kidneys, legs and feet. Over time, your arteries may continue to narrow or even become blocked, which can lead to tissue death and amputation. And when this type of blockage happens in a carotid artery, it can lead to a stroke. If you have PAD, you likely have a higher risk of death from a heart attack or stroke.
The good news: Although PAD is a potentially life-threatening condition, it can be managed and sometimes reversed with proper care.
KEEP SYMPTOMS IN MIND
Many people with PAD have mild or no symptoms. But now that you know it's dangerous, it's important to keep an eye out for symptoms:
· leg heaviness
· discomfort or pain in the legs of buttocks when you're active.
· numbness in legs
· sores on leg, feet, or toes that aren't healing properly
Risk factors for PAD and other forms of vascular disease include:
· Over age 60
· Hypertension (high blood pressure)
· High blood cholesterol
· Family history of vascular disease
· Previous heart or leg treatments
· Prior stroke
·WHEN TO TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR
It's important to see your doctor who will review your medical and family history, risk factors and any symptoms you may have. If your doctor suspects that you have PAD, he or she may refer you to a vascular specialist for testing. One test available is the ABI or Ankle Brachial Index test. It measures the blood pressure at your ankle by using a blood pressure cuff and special ultrasound device. The test is designed to measure how well your blood is flowing through your arteries and identify any areas of concern.
Where can I get vascular testing?
Great news - the USA Vascular Group provides vascular diagnostic testing in our onsite lab (VDS) and consults and treatment by experienced vascular surgeons. If PAD is detected, your USA surgeon will recommend a treatment plan based on your symptoms, test results, medical history and future potential risks. This plan may include lifestyle changes and medications to relieve pain and symptoms, and surgical procedures to increase blood flow through your arteries. With 7 vascular surgeons, 7 nurse practitioners and physician assistants, a full vascular diagnostics lab, special procedures suite, and clinical staff, USA Vascular is ready and able to help you understand and manage PAD.
If your doctor recommends vascular testing, you can request to be referred to USA Vascular or call us today at 423-267-0466.
The vascular surgeons of University Surgical Associates are trained in both general and vascular surgery and provide comprehensive care for patients with PAD and other vascular disease.