It isn’t only accidents and wars that result in amputations; peripheral arterial disease (PAD) can lead to loss of a leg. The disease affects more than 8 million people in the U.S., especially those over 50, African Americans, and Hispanics are at risk. It is estimated that one of every 20 Americans over the age of 50 has PAD. Baby boomers approaching the age of 50 need to be aware of their vascular health and the associated diseases, including PAD.Most people are unaware of the disease called PAD. It is particularly difficult to know when you have PAD because normally there are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. As the disease develops, those affected may experience discomfort or pain in their legs when they walk, but no pain when they rest. Because of the lack of symptoms, it is very important that people aged 50 and over talk with their primary care physician about PAD and ask for an examination if they:
· Are 50-years-old or older, particularly males
· Experience hypertension (high blood pressure)
· Have diabetes
· Have high cholesterol
· Are obese
· Do not exercise
· Have a family history of vascular problems
Healthy peripheral arteries are smooth and unobstructed, allowing blood to flow freely to the legs and provide oxygen, glucose, and other nutrients to legs. Typically with age, the peripheral arteries build up plague, a sticky substance made up mostly of fat and cholesterol. Plaque narrows the passageway within the arteries and causes them to become stiff.PAD results when the peripheral arteries become too narrow or obstructed and limit the blood flow to the legs. If left untreated, PAD can cause pain or aching in the legs, difficulty with walking, resting pain in the foot at night in bed, non-healing sores or infections in the toes or feet, and can lead to limb loss in its most severe form.
In addition these serious arterial conditions, those with PAD should understand that people with the disease may be more likely to suffer heart attacks and stroke. The diagnosis of PAD can be established, and its severity confirmed by a simple, noninvasive Doppler examination. Depending on the severity of the condition, treatment options may include lifestyle changes, medications, minimally invasive angioplasty/stenting, or open bypass surgery.
If you have evidence of PAD, see a vascular surgeon who has the expertise to give the best diagnosis and treat with all noninvasive and other procedures. To learn more about your vascular health, PAD, and other vascular diseases, visit www.VascularWeb.org, or call 877-282-2010 for a free brochure on PAD.
Republished with permission by the Society for Vascular Surgery. Vascular surgeons provide expert care for circulatory disease. They are the only physicians who are skilled in all vascular treatments including medical management, noninvasive procedures, as well as surgery for advanced cases. Learn more about vascular conditions and treatments and find a vascular surgeon at VascularWeb.