Peripheral artery disease, or PAD, affects over 8 million Americans. Many never experience symptoms, however, even without symptoms people with PAD are at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Early diagnosis and treatment can reduce these risks and relieve symptoms of PAD.
PAD is the most common type of peripheral vascular disease (PVD), and is characterized by fatty deposits called plaque on the inside walls of arteries. The medical term for this is atherosclerosis, and is also referred to as “hardening of the arteries”. This can cause a restriction in blood flow to the arms, kidneys, stomach, but most commonly the legs and feet. Lack of circulation to legs and feet can result in pain, numbness, and in severe cases amputation of the foot or leg. Early diagnosis and treatment is essential to treating PAD.
Our doctors are highly experienced in diagnosing and treating PAD. The skilled interventional team specializes in several minimally invasive outpatient procedures that reduce blockages in arteries allowing you to return to an active life. Angioplasty is used to open up blood vessels that are narrowed by plaque to flow more freely and easily to the feet. Our patients benefit from stent placements, in which a small mesh tube is placed to hold the blood vessel open for enhanced circulation. If blood clots are found, or thrombolysis is used to dissolve or remove the blood clot before it causes further damage. These minimally invasive outpatient treatments have saved patients from amputation and given them an enhanced quality of life.
There are some risk factors for PAD that you cannot control, such as heredity, diabetes, or aging. There are others that you can control, such as lack of exercise, smoking, and consuming high fat foods. If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you should be working with a doctor to control those factors.
- Consuming high fat foods
- Lack of exercise
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Age – over 50
- Pain in legs or buttocks
- Cramping in legs or buttocks
- Fatigue in legs or buttocks
- Numbness in legs
- Numbness in feet
- Symptoms subside a few minutes after you stop exercising
- Legs or feet cooler than other parts of your body
- Non-healing sores on the foot or leg
- Gangrene in sores on your foot or leg
- Low blood pressure in legs and feet
Symptoms are indicators of a disease that you experience, while signs are indicators of a disease that can be seen. Your doctor will ask you about the symptoms you experience and examine you for signs.
- PAD can be diagnosed by a physical exam coupled with several painless non-invasive tests. An ankle-brachial index (ABI) test is a simple way for your doctor to check how well your blood is flowing. If the ABI test indicates a possible narrowing of the arteries, your doctor may perform one of the following tests to gather more information:
- Doppler and Ultrasound (Duplex) imaging: a non-invasive method that visualizes the artery with sound waves and measures the blood flow in an artery to indicate the presence of a blockage.
- Angiography: the examination of the arteries by using a contrast agent and X-rays to look for blockages in the arteries of the leg. This is generally done during treatment to view the blood flow so it is clear when the blockage has been removed.
PAD is the leading cause of amputation of the legs or feet. Lack of blood flow to the legs and feet can result in poor healing, so even a small wound can eventually become gangrenous and eventually require amputation.
When the arteries of the extremities have plaque buildup, it is likely a sign that other blood vessels in the body are experiencing the same problem. Coronary artery disease is plaque buildup in the blood vessels to the heart; carotid artery disease is plaque buildup in the blood vessels to the brain. Coronary artery disease causes heart attacks, and carotid artery disease causes strokes. People who have PAD are six or seven times more likely to experience a heart attack or stroke.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of PAD, you should see your doctor immediately.
Please click on the below link to see if you are at risk for the disease. A nurse for our team will reach out with you to review your results.