More than 8 million Americans aged 40 and over have peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition that’s typically caused by atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis develops when cholesterol and other fats form plaque in your arteries.
Though PAD can affect your arms and legs, it’s most often found in your lower limbs. At Central Coast Vein & Vascular, Kenneth Spearman, MD, focuses on patient-centered care, developing customized treatment plans that restore your health and help you maintain an active lifestyle.
Call the office if you have any questions about PAD. In the meantime, these are the five things everyone needs to know about this progressive disease.
PAD seldom causes early symptoms
Don’t plan on symptoms to tip you off to PAD. You can have PAD for years without having symptoms, while the plaque continues to enlarge and harden. Symptoms don’t develop until the plaque gets large enough to block a significant amount of the blood flowing through the artery.
The hallmark symptom of PAD is leg pain that occurs while walking and then feels better after you rest. This symptom, called claudication, occurs because your muscles don’t have enough oxygen-rich blood to support increased activity.
At first, many patients think the pain that occurs when they’re active is associated with aging. As a result, they often don’t talk with their physician about the problem until PAD progresses to cause severe pain or advanced symptoms, such as nonhealing leg wounds.
PAD increases your risk of heart disease
If you have PAD, there’s a good chance you have atherosclerosis in other arteries, including your coronary arteries. PAD alone significantly increases your risk of developing heart failure or having a heart attack or stroke.
Studies show that 30%-50% of all patients with PAD have coronary artery disease. Additionally, 15%-25% have carotid artery disease, or atherosclerosis in the arteries that carry blood from the heart to your brain.
PAD can be prevented
Though genetics play a role in PAD, most of the things that increase your risk are related to your lifestyle. That’s good news because it means you can identify those factors and make changes that help you prevent PAD. Lifestyle risk factors have such a big role, they’re also part of your treatment after we diagnose PAD.
Diabetes and smoking are the top two risk factors. Smokers have nearly four times the risk, while those with diabetes are 2-4 times more likely to develop PAD.
If you have diabetes, you can lower your risk by keeping your blood sugar within a normal range. And if you smoke, breaking the habit helps prevent PAD and the other conditions that increase your risk for PAD, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Advanced PAD can lead to amputation
Untreated PAD can progress to an advanced stage called critical limb ischemia, a condition that occurs when blood flow is significantly blocked. Without enough blood, the tissues in your lower leg, ankle, and foot don’t get enough oxygen and start to die.
Once you have critical limb ischemia, you need immediate treatment to restore blood flow and preserve your leg. We’re dedicated to helping patients prevent amputation, the treatment of last resort when tissues die.
PAD is treatable
Even at an advanced stage, PAD is treatable. We provide comprehensive care for PAD with individualized treatment based on the stage of your atherosclerosis. Many patients come in for a risk assessment, ultrasound screening to evaluate their arteries, and help with a lifestyle plan to prevent PAD.
When a blockage is detected, we specialize in minimally invasive interventional treatments that eliminate the plaque and restore normal blood flow. Procedures, such as angioplasty and atherectomy, are done from inside your arteries, using specialized catheters that only need a tiny cut to access the vein.
You also get all the care you need in one convenient location. With on-site vascular ultrasound, you receive a rapid and accurate diagnosis. And then we perform all minimally invasive procedures in our state-of-the-art outpatient surgery suite, the only one of its kind in San Luis Obispo County.
If you develop symptoms of PAD, such as pain, cramping, fatigue or tingling in your leg and discolored skin or nonhealing ulcers, call Central Coast Vein & Vascular or schedule an appointment online today.