Peripheral Artery Disease is a narrowing or blockage of the arteries that supply blood to our legs and arms. Most often, the arteries in the legs are affected. Nearly 8.5 million Americans are currently living with PAD and if left untreated, it can lead to avoidable amputations.
September is Peripheral Artery Disease Awareness Month. This cardiac condition is often overlooked and the minor-to-moderate leg pain it causes is dismissed as part of growing old. It is important to promote awareness of PAD to encourage screenings for adults over 60 as well as lifestyle changes to help prevent PAD.
What causes PAD and who is at risk?
PAD develops when plaque builds up in peripheral arteries, those arteries delivering blood farther away from the heart. This plaque is made up of fatty deposits. There are many factors that contribute to these fatty deposits including high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and smoking. If you have a family member who has artery disease, you are at greater risk of developing PAD. However, lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise have a large impact on the health of your arteries.
What are the symptoms of PAD?
The symptoms most commonly felt by PAD patients include leg pain after exercise or activity, leg numbness, and numbness or tingling in the foot and toes. Other symptoms include cold or bluish skin, and shiny skin with loss of hair. The most dangerous symptom of PAD is a foot ulcer or wound that has not begun to heal within four weeks.
How is PAD diagnosed and treated?
Your doctor may suspect PAD just by taking your pulse or examining a non-healing wound. The most commonly used diagnostic tool is the Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI). This test compares the blood pressure in your ankle with the blood pressure in your arm, before and immediately after moderately walking. In some cases, doctors use ultrasound to identify blocked arteries.
Treatment for PAD starts with lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, losing weight, exercising and changing your diet to include foods low in saturated fats and high in fiber and healthy fats. Medication may be prescribed to help dilate blood vessels. In the more severe cases, surgical inventions may be needed including angioplasty, stents or bypass surgery.
How does PAD affect wound healing?
People suffering from PAD are prone to getting wounds on their legs and feet that will not heal due to a lack of oxygen-rich blood reaching the injured tissue on their legs and feet. In fact, PAD contributes to 10-30% of all ulcers that form on lower limbs. It is essential for wound patients with PAD to get proper care to promote healing and prevent infection and possible hospitalization.
Healogics helps patients with chronic wounds heal faster. Over the past 20 years, we have helped to heal more than four million wounds. We have partnerships with academic and research-based scientists to consult and analyze, driving collaboration to provide better outcomes for our patients.