Do you suffer from non-healing leg, foot, or toe wounds, or leg cramps or pain triggered by activity or walking? If so, you’re not alone. These are all common symptoms of P.A.D or rather, peripheral artery disease, a problem that affects around 12 million Americans.
Peripheral artery disease is a slow, progressive and (in some cases) life-threatening vascular condition that is caused by a build-up of plaque that narrows the arteries in the peripheral arterial system. This, in turn, causes limited or restricted blood flow to the limbs which can lead to a whole host of health issues. In its most severe form, P.A.D can lead to limb amputation.
Just to show how common P.A.D can be, here are some facts and figures:
- One in three diabetics over the age of 50 suffers from peripheral artery disease
- P.A.D affects approximately 12-14% of the world’s population
- Between 20%-50% of P.A.D sufferers are asymptomatic (a condition that produces or shows no symptoms)
- Smoking increases the likelihood of P.A.D by 400%
- Approximately 15,000 lower limb amputations carried out annually in the US can be directly attributed to peripheral artery disease.
How do you know if you have P.A.D?
We’ve already said that in many cases you won’t even know that you have the condition. In fact, in the early stages, it’s often mistaken for signs of arthritis or simply ‘old age’. As such, it can prove extremely difficult to detect.
That said, there are some symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore. Factors like prolonged leg fatigue, decreased hair growth on both legs and feet, changes in the appearance of the legs – particularly shiny skin; and any lower limb sores that are taking a long time to heal, can all be attributed to P.A.D. For these reasons, it’s important to seek advice from your doctor right away.
Because peripheral artery disease is a progressive problem, early detection is key. If you do decide to ignore the symptoms, then it’s highly likely that you will develop more serious complications. Therefore it’s vital that you pay close attention to your body and seek help if you notice any changes, no matter how slight.
P.A.D – are you at risk?
There are a few risk factors that will sway the likelihood of developing the disease. Smoking, for example, is by far the biggest contributor to peripheral artery disease. Quitting smoking reduces the likelihood by up to 400%. Other risk factors include obesity, a lack of exercise, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and a family history of the disease. So if you have one or more of these conditions or habits then there’s a good chance that you are at risk.
What about prevention?
The good news is that by understanding the underlying causes, it’s possible to make changes to reduce the risk. In some cases this may be simple adjustments such as eating a better-balanced diet, while in others, changes may need to be more wholesale such as quitting smoking, taking more regular exercise, and reducing cholesterol levels by adopting a diet low in saturated fats. In addition, your doctor may prescribe Angiotensin–Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors which help to quickly lower blood pressure and prevent blood clots
Sometimes lifestyle changes are insufficient, and some patients may require a minimally invasive treatment that can restore blood flow to the affected limb or limbs. An angioplasty, for example, is a small balloon-like catheter that is inserted into the vein and inflated. This naturally widens the artery. A stent may also be positioned in order for the artery to remain open. Knowing where you stand in the progression of P.A.D will help to determine exactly what actions need to be taken.
If you have been diagnosed with peripheral artery disease, it’s perhaps good to know that there are treatments available. Many patients, for example, are successfully treated with a combination of medication and a rehabilitative exercise program, while others may undergo a non-surgical and proven procedure such as an angioplasty.
Here at the Midwest Institute for Non-Surgical Therapy (MINT), Dr. Akinwande is highly experienced in the latest vascular medicine and regularly treats PAD sufferers using the latest non-surgical techniques. If you do feel that you are at risk from P.A.D or already have the condition and are seeking treatment, it’s well worth giving him a call to talk about your options today.