Millions of men and women across the United States are affected by Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). PAD occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries that carry blood away from the heart, causing them to narrow and restricting blood flow. If you’ve been diagnosed with PAD or think you may be experiencing symptoms, there are a few things you should know about this common condition.
One in every 20 Americans over 50 has P.A.D.
In all, there are between 8-12 million cases of Peripheral Artery Disease in the United States, most of those over the age of 50. P.A.D. can affect anyone but is found most common in older patients, African-Americans and those with chronic health conditions like diabetes or hypertension.
It occurs most commonly in the limbs
Though any peripheral artery can become blocked by plaque, it occurs most commonly in the legs and feet.
It’s most commonly caused by Atherosclerosis
The most common cause of Peripheral Artery Disease is atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque builds up in the arteries. Plaque is a sticky substance made up of cholesterol, fat, calcium, fibrous tissue and other substances in the blood.
Having PAD puts you at risk of other health problems
People with Peripheral Artery Disease are at significantly higher risk of stroke, ischemic heart attacks, and coronary heart disease. If left untreated, P.A.D. can also lead to gangrene and amputation.
You may not know you have P.A.D.
Weakness in the limbs, aching or cramping legs, poor toenail growth - these could be simple signs of aging, but they could also indicate P.A.D. The symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease can range from mild to severe and are often vague enough to be easily mistaken for other conditions or written off completely. To add to the confusion, symptoms may become worse with activity but vanish completely with rest.
Because of this, many patients have P.A.D. for years before a diagnosis is made. If you are 70 years or older or have a history of high-risk factors, you should be screened for Peripheral Artery Disease.
Diagnosis is Easy and Painless
Good news! If you’re at risk of Peripheral Artery Disease or are experiencing symptoms, getting to the right diagnosis is often easy and painless. Your doctor will conduct a physical exam, review your family and medical history, and use test results to determine if you have P.A.D.
A common diagnostic tool is the Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI). This painless 10-minute test compares the blood pressure in your feet to the blood pressure in your hands to look for blockages. Your ankle pressure should be within 90% of your arms, but if the blockage is severe it may be less than 50%.
If your ABI result is concerning, your doctor may use a vascular ultrasound or other imaging studies to test further.
You can take control of your PAD
In most cases, managing PAD is as simple as lifestyle changes and medication to prevent clots. Like so many other health issues, PAD can be reduced with exercise, a proper diet, and smoking cessation. Managing chronic conditions like diabetes or high cholesterol also helps reduce PAD.
In severe cases, surgery or injections may be needed to remove blockages or bypass the damaged artery. Speak with your doctor about what treatment plan is best for you.
We can help!
The specialists at Vascular Associates of South Alabama can help you diagnose and manage your Peripheral Artery Disease. Our expert staff uses state-of-the-art equipment and a range of treatment options to help you take control of your PAD - and your life. Call to schedule your appointment today.