Peripheral arterial disease, also called PAD, occurs when blood vessels in the legs are
narrowed or blocked by fatty deposits. Blood flow to your feet and legs decreases. If you
have PAD, you have an increased risk for heart attack and stroke. An estimated 1 out of
every 3 people who have diabetes and are over the age of 50 has this condition.
However, many of those with warning signs don’t realize that they have PAD and
therefore don’t get treatment.
Many people with PAD don’t have any symptoms. Some people may experience mild leg
pain or have trouble walking and assume it’s just a sign of getting older.
The signs of PAD include:
- Leg pain, particularly when walking or exercising, which disappears after a few minutes of rest
- Numbness, tingling, or coldness in the lower legs or feet
- Sores or infections on your feet or leges that heal slowly
- High Blood Pressure
- Abnormal Cholesterol Levels
- Already having heart disease or having had a heart attack or a stroke
- Being overweight
- Not being physically active
- Being older than age 50
- Having a family history of heart disease, heart attacks or strokes
How it is Diagnosed:
- Ankle Brachial Index (ABI) - this test compares the blood pressure in your ankle to the blood pressure in your arm. If the blood pressure in the lower part of your leg is lower than the pressure in your arm, you have PAD.
- Angiogram - a test in which dye is injected into the blood vessels using a catheter and X-rays are taken to show whether arteries are narrowed or blocked.
- Ultrasound - a test using sound waves to produce images of the blood vessels on a viewing screen.
People with PAD are at very high risk for heart attacks and stroke therefore it is very
important that cardiovascular risk factors be managed. Follow these steps:
- Quit smoking
- Lower your blood pressure to less than 130/80
- Get your LDL cholesterol below 100
- Medications - Your doctor may prescribe medications to prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure and cholesterol and control pain and other symptoms.
- Exercise - Studies have found that exercise, such as walking, can be used both to treat PAD and to prevent it.
- Eat a healthy diet. Choose foods, such as salmon, herring or other cold-water fish, with omega-3 fatty acids.
In some cases, surgical procedures are used to treat PAD:
- Angioplasty (also called balloon angioplasty) - a procedure in which a small tube (catheter) with a balloon attached is inserted and threaded into an artery; then the balloon is inflated, opening the narrowed artery. A wire tube, called a stent, may be left in place to help keep the artery open.
- Artery Bypass Graft - a procedure in which a blood vessel is taken from another part of the body or a soft piece of plastic is attached to bypass a blocked artery. This technique allows blood to flow around or bypass the blocked or narrowed artery.
- Thrombolytic Therapy - a procedure in which clot-dissolving drug is injected into your artery at the point of the clot to break it up.
Careful Foot Care
In addition to the above suggestions, take good care of your feet. People with peripheral
arterial disease, especially those who also have diabetes, are at risk of poor healing of
sores on the lower legs and feet. Poor blood circulation can lengthen or prevent proper
healing and increases the risk of infection. Follow this advice to care for your feet:
- Wash your feet daily and moisturize them well and often to prevent cracks that can lead to infection.
- Wear well-fitting shoes and thick, dry socks.
- Promptly treat any fungal infections of the feet, such as athlete’s foot
- Take good care when trimming your nails.
- Avoid walking barefoot.
- See your doctor at the first sign of a sore or injury to your skin.