Peripheral Artery Disease, known as (PAD), is a common vascular problem that occurs when arteries become clogged with plaque, thus restricting blood flow to the lower limbs and feet.
Common symptoms include painful cramping in the thigh or calf muscles, numbness of the leg or foot, lower leg weakness, and sores on the feet or legs that won’t heal.
In worst cases scenarios, PAD can cause gangrene, which, in turn, can lead to limb loss and even death.
Yet, despite the seriousness of the condition, the problem often goes unrecognized, undiagnosed and untreated. So to bring the propensity of this issue to light, here are seven facts about PAD you should know.
Fact #1 – There are more people diagnosed with symptoms of PAD worldwide (an estimated 230 million) than from all types of cancer combined (18 million).
Fact #2 – Up to 50% of all diagnosed PAD cases are asymptomatic. In other words, they currently show little or no underlying symptoms.
Fact #3 - Although many diagnosed cases are asymptomatic, those with the condition are at an increased risk of developing strokes and heart attacks (myocardial infarction).
Fact #4 – Of all peripheral artery disease cases, over 10 million develop critical limb ischemia (CLI) – A particularly severe form of PAD causing persistent leg pain, skin ulceration and eventually gangrene.
Fact #5 – Public awareness of PAD is low. In a simultaneous study across multiple countries, 57% of those surveyed were unfamiliar with the condition.
Fact #6 – The most common cause of peripheral artery disease is diabetes. Up to 45% of all people with type II diabetes go on to develop PAD. Moreover, peripheral artery disease in diabetics manifests itself earlier and can evolve quickly into CLI.
Fact #7 -There is no direct cure for PAD. However, treatments can reduce symptoms, and lifestyle changes, exercise and claudication medications can slow any progression.
As you can see, peripheral artery disease is a common but complicated problem that sometimes goes undiagnosed. Cases go from having no underlying symptoms to extreme leg pain, gangrene, and limb loss.
The good news
When PAD is diagnosed early enough, patients may only need to make slight lifestyle adjustments to improve blood flow and keep the problem at bay.
Even when the disease has reached an advanced state and veins are clogged, advancements in vascular medicine mean that you don’t need to undergo surgical treatments like vascular bypass surgery.
Instead, several minimally invasive non-surgical techniques can also be used to help.
Here are a selection:
During this outpatient procedure, a small balloon is inserted via a catheter into the artery. Once in position, the balloon is then inflated, widening the artery to enable better circulation
Using a pinhole technique, a small device is used to remove any existing plaque that has built up on the vein wall to restore circulation.
Sometimes, a small mesh tube – known as a stent, is placed in the artery holding the artery open. A larger opening helps to increase the overall flow of blood and, therefore, improves circulation to the lower limb.
So, are you at risk of peripheral artery disease?
The bottom line is that PAD doesn’t discriminate; it can affect anyone. That said, several key elements place you at greater risk of developing the condition. Things like poor diet and a lack of exercise are just two factors that can contribute to this potentially harmful condition. Others, like age and genetics, also play their part.
Ideally, if you are over 50 and/or have family members that have been diagnosed with PAD, then it pays to maintain a healthy lifestyle incorporating a balanced diet and steady exercise.
Diabetes is one of the significant contributors to peripheral artery disease. Therefore, a diet low in saturated and trans fats, coupled with a healthy diet that incorporates fruit, vegetables and whole grains, can help lower blood cholesterol levels that lead to diabetes.
Smoking, too, is another contributing factor towards peripheral artery disease. According to one clinical paper, smokers are 2.5 times at risk of developing PAD. So if you do smoke, consider quitting.
Finally, research of over 38,000 people from varying ethnic backgrounds suggests that African Americans have a significantly higher risk of developing PAD than Hispanics or Whites. In fact, the probability of developing peripheral artery disease is as high as 30% in black men and women but is lower in hispanic and white ethnic groups (less than 20%).
Top tips for PAD prevention
Irrespective of whether you are in a high-risk group, it doesn’t always mean that you should be resigned to getting Peripheral Artery Disease. Instead, try to educate yourself on the signs and symptoms.
If you feel at risk (remember, in some cases, people with PAD show no outlying symptoms), talk to your primary care physician about any concerns. Your PCP should carry out a series of tests to ascertain a diagnosis.
Even if the diagnosis is clear, consider eating healthier and increasing exercise levels. A few changes to an existing diet and 5-10 minutes of brisk daily walking can make a significant difference.
Alternatively, if PAD has been diagnosed and you want to know what to do next, contact the team at the Midwest Institute of Non-Surgical Therapy (MINT).
As a vascular and vein specialist, Dr. Akinwande uses the latest non-invasive, non-surgical outpatient treatments to ease symptoms of PAD and prolong life.
Don’t suffer in silence! Call us at 314-255-2204 or book an appointment online to see how we can help. Patients can now choose from 5 convenient locations, including Chicago, IL.
Photo attribution: jcomp at Freepik