Peripheral Artery Disease
You may have friends or loved ones who mention that they have “poor circulation” and leg pain. Maybe they have wounds that won’t heal or they can’t sleep at night. But, they dismiss their health problems as just part of getting older. Or maybe you’re experiencing similar health problems yourself. The trouble is, health problems such as heavy, tired or painful legs and feet could point to something much worse than just getting older.
You could be at risk for peripheral artery disease (PAD). Few people who have PAD know their options or even realize what PAD is. However, PAD is the biggest disease that most people have never heard about. It affects more than 18 million people – more than cancer, stroke and congestive heart failure. PAD isn’t something you can just shrug off. Early detection is important. If you think you might be at risk for the disease, consult a health care professional right away.
Common risk factors for PAD are:
- Increasing age
- Diabetes mellitus
- Kidney disease
If you have any of these risk factors and have experienced symptoms of PAD, contact MIMIT Health today.
PVD affects about 1 in 20 people over the age of 50, or about 8 million people in the United States. If you are over the age of 50, or have hypertension, diabetes, or high cholesterol, you run a greater risk of developing PVD. Smokers and those who are overweight or don't exercise regularly are also at risk. Simply ignoring your symptoms is not an option. Many people simply live with their pain, assuming it is a normal part of aging, rather than reporting it to their doctor.
Don’t wait to call your doctor to talk about PAD. Catching it early could make a big difference.
The most common symptom of PAD is called claudication, which is leg pain that occurs when walking or exercising and disappears when the person stops the activity. Other symptoms of PAD include:
- Cramping, leg or hip pain which occurs when you walk, but goes away when you rest
- Numbness, tingling or weakness in the legs
- Burning or aching pain in your feet or toes when resting
- A sore on a leg or foot that won’t heal
- Cold legs or feet
- Loss of hair on your legs
Early detection is key
If you’re wondering whether you might have peripheral artery disease (PAD), don’t delay in talking with your health care professional. Many people living with PAD don’t show any symptoms. They might not be aware the disease is progressing. Others might have early symptoms, like pain while walking or cold feet. But, instead of talking with a health care professional, they dismiss these changes as a normal part of getting older or the result of another condition, such as an existing heart condition. Those early symptoms could be a sign of PAD, which is treatable.
What can you do?
Fortunately, there’s a simple test that a doctor can perform in the office to help determine if you or a loved one have PAD. This noninvasive test can determine your ankle-brachial index (ABI), one of the best ways to tell if you have PAD, and if so how severe it is.23 The test compares the blood pressure in your ankle to that in your arm. If the pressure is lower in your ankle than in your arm, it’s possible you have PAD. When requesting this test, insist that your doctor take your ABI and not just take your ankle pulse alone to determine the strength of blood flow to your feet. Early detection is important. Having an ABI test and getting appropriate treatment could help stop the disease from getting worse – possibly saving a toe or leg from amputation.17
The treatment your doctor recommends will depend on your overall health as well as the severity of the disease. Here are a few options:
In most cases, lifestyle changes can be enough to slow the progression of, or reverse, the disease. Your doctor may suggest that you quit smoking, begin an exercise regimen, and change your diet to one that is lower in fat and cholesterol. Other factors include:
- Control diabetes
- Control blood pressure
- Eat a low-saturated-fat, low-cholesterol diet
Some people will need to take a cholesterol-lowering medication, or medication that controls high blood pressure. These may be prescribed in addition to lifestyle changes.
Procedures to Open Blocked Blood Vessels
There are a number of procedures that doctors use to open blood vessels at the site of blockages caused by PVD. In many cases, these procedures can be performed without surgery using modern, interventional radiology techniques.
Most of the time, lifestyle changes, medication and/or an interventional procedure can alleviate PVD. Sometimes, however, surgical intervention is needed. Surgery for PVD is performed by cardiothoracic or cardiovascular surgeons. Your physician can determine what the best treatment option is.
Have you heard of CLI?
We understand that as you learn more about peripheral artery disease (PAD), you may discover stages of the disease you’re unfamiliar with, such as critical limb ischemia, or CLI. This is the worst form of PAD. Ask a doctor if you have an advanced stage of PAD, or use our Find a Doctor tool to locate a PAD specialist.
When you have PAD, your arteries are narrowed, restricting the blood flow to your legs, feet and/or toes. If a diagnosis has shown your PAD has advanced to CLI, the restricted blood flow could be so considerable and widespread that you may be at significant risk for amputation.
Without treatment to help restore circulation you may need an amputation and your life could be at risk.4
What are the symptoms?
The presence of an ulcer or gangrene is often a sign of CLI. Leg pain while walking and leg pain that is frequently intolerable also can be common with CLI. Intense discomfort from CLI can last from minutes to hours, and often happens at night.
The leg pain from CLI can interrupt your sleep, and you might hang your foot off the edge of the bed in an attempt to get relief. Or you might only be able to get rest when you sleep upright in a chair.