Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), is a circulation condition where narrowed blood vessels reduce blood flow to the limbs, kidneys and other vital organs. Approximately 20 million Americans have PAD and live with this often-silent condition. Those at highest risk are people who smoke, or have diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure or are elderly.
The first sign of PAD is pain or weakness in the foot or legs when walking or standing. When patients are identified and screened from head to toe for vascular issues, they can be put on the proper medical and walking exercise regimen to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke – the leading cause of death for those with PAD.
People with advanced PAD have limited blood flow to their feet, causing a range of issues including severe pain in their legs at night, the loss of hair on their lower legs, developing shallow ulcers or sores that don’t heal, and the increased risk of gangrene. If left untreated, people can and do lose their legs. The southeastern United States has the highest amputation rates in the country, having much to do the prevalence of smoking, diabetes, and kidney disease and the hardening of arteries that occurs as you age.
People referred for a PAD screening receive an ultrasound to look for potential blockages. In many cases, PAD can be treated medically, or with several different endovascular methods including angioplasty, atherectomy, stenting or a combination of approaches that are tailored to each individual’s specific needs. In people with severely compromised blood flow, critical limb ischemia, early identification and rapid treatment is often the only way to save someone’s leg.
People who have diabetes and high blood pressure are at increased risk for PAD as well as heart attack and stroke. If you notice any symptoms of PAD listed above, talk to your doctor immediately and request an evaluation.