Diabetes, neuropathy and PAD | Modern Vascular 

A Growing Epidemic

Diabetes has been a growing epidemic over the past 30 years. Notably, it has been on the rise with the increase of corn syrup and high sugar substrates in our diets. However, hereditary and cultural influences also contribute factors to diabetes. It is increasingly common to see signs of neuropathy and PAD in pre-diabetic patients.

Diabetes Disease Progression

 

  1. Fatty deposits in the blood

    Diabetes

    Puts fatty deposits and other substances in the blood.

  2. Deposition of plaques of fatty material on inner artery walls

    Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

    Atherosclerosis clogged artery.

  3. Inadequate supply of blood to lower extremities

    Neuropathy and Ischemia

    Oxygen starved nerves and tissue.

  4. Amputation due to infection, ulcers, or gangrene

    Dead Tissue and Amputation

    If left untreated, the lack of blood to your feet and toes can lead to infection, foot ulcers and gangrene.

Diabetic blood cells

Neuropathy may occur in over 60% of patients with diabetes. The symptoms of diabetic neuropathy may also include leg cramping or a sensation of aching pain, similar to the PAD. Therefore, from a practical standpoint, neuropathy and PAD frequently coexist as related conditions. That makes it hard to tell vascular pain and neuropathic pain apart.

Diabetes can lead to neuropathy… and the path it takes is through PAD

Neuropathy may occur in over 60% of patients with diabetes. The symptoms of diabetic neuropathy may also include leg cramping or a sensation of aching pain, similar to PAD. So from a practical standpoint, neuropathy and peripheral artery disease frequently coexist as related conditions, which makes it difficult to differentiate vascular pain from neuropathic pain.

The leading risk factors of PAD are age and diabetes. Some of the common warning signs are pain and cramping in your legs and feet. PAD restricts blood flow to your lower legs and feet,  preventing oxygen-rich blood cells from reaching your lower extremities.

Ultimately, this can lead to a breakdown of the skin and diabetic skin ulcers. Sores that will not heal can lead to infections. What you need to know about the relationship between diabetes, neuropathy, and PAD is that diabetes can lead to neuropathy, and the path it takes is through PAD.

The leg pains and warning signs are similar enough that if you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms you should seek a comprehensive evaluation. This is your time to take preventative action. Contact one of the Modern Vascular clinics for a PAD evaluation if you are experiencing warning signs of neuropathy and peripheral artery disease.

Signs and Symptoms of PAD on man walking up stairs

Peripheral Artery Disease Sign & Symptoms

Peripheral artery disease is a circulatory condition that is chronic and potentially life-threatening. It is caused by the arteries becoming narrow or blocked due because of a buildup of plaque. Plaque in the arteries is made of fatty materials and cholesterol. It causes a reduction of blood flow that is carried away from the heart towards the rest of the body, except for the brain. It is especially prevalent in the legs and feet.

The signs of Peripheral Artery Disease vary based on age, weight, and lifestyle choices. There is about a 50% chance that patients with PAD will experience noticeable symptoms. These symptoms are almost always caused by a reduction in blood flow to your leg muscles. This can vary based on which artery is affected and to what extent your blood flow is restricted.

Women on beach without PAD symptoms

What Are The Signs of Peripheral Artery Disease?

The most common symptom of Peripheral Artery Disease is pain in one or both calves, thighs, or hips. Intermittent pain usually occurs while walking or climbing stairs. This is because the need for oxygen-rich blood increases during these activities and other exercises. The name of this pain is claudication.

Leg cramps are fairly common, but cramps that start with exercise and subside when you rest are most likely due to claudication. When there is a blockage in the blood vessels in your legs you may even experience pain at night or in your sleep. It usually is a dull, cramping pain. It may also feel like a heaviness, tightness, or tiredness in the muscles of the legs.

Other PAD Symptoms

  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness in your legs
  • Burning or aching pain in your feet or toes
  • Dull pain in your buttocks
  • One or both legs or feet feel cold
  • One or both legs or feet have different color
  • Impotence or the inability to maintain an erection
  • Lingering sores on the feet or legs or loss of hair

Because the signs of PAD can be easily excused as tiredness or fatigue, or masked by conditions such as peripheral neuropathy, it is important that you’re mindful of common risk factors. Some of the risk factors include a history of smoking, diabetes, obesity, and age.

There is a link between smoking and peripheral artery disease that has been confirmed by a number of studies. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including the risk of peripheral artery disease.

If you are experiencing one or more of these PAD symptoms, and you have some of the risk factors, you should check with a doctor to figure out what is causing your symptoms.

If you are interested in learning more about Peripheral Artery Disease, you should read our frequently asked questions page.

You Have PAD Symptoms – Now What?

If you have any of the symptoms of PAD you should first speak to your doctor. If you are diabetic you should speak to your endocrinologist. If you have chronic wounds on your feet or legs you should speak to your podiatrist or wound care specialist, respectively. It would be beneficial to receive a comprehensive evaluation to determine the severity of your condition and to determine a treatment plan. At Modern Vascular, there are highly skilled physicians and staff that are trained to detect and treat Peripheral Artery Disease.

The condition may improve with adjustments to one’s lifestyle. Some of the risk factors can be addressed through these changes, allowing for the possibility of improvement. For instance, smoking is a risk factor. If a PAD patient quits smoking, they may see an improvement in their condition. Other lifestyle changes include sticking to a healthy diet and developing an exercise routine. Doctors may also prescribe medications that should be taken as prescribed.

For some patients, changes to their lifestyle aren’t enough to manage the disease. If that’s the case, there are minimally invasive endovascular procedures that can help restore blood flow to the affected extremities. People that have PAD that think that would benefit from one of these procedures can reach out to Modern Vascular to schedule an evaluation to determine if that is a viable option.

Watch the following video to learn more about the risk factors:

Common Risk Factors of Peripheral Artery Disease

How heart health and vascular health are related Modern Vascular Blog

Listen to Your Heart: Vascular Health

Imagine that your body is a machine and your heart is the pump that keeps it running. Now, consider how your body lets your heart know that your vascular system isn’t running at its best.

Soreness and intermittent cramps are a key symptom of Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). A burning or aching feeling in your feet or toes may also indicate PAD. These are signs of insufficient blood flow and potential heart problems.

Improving Your Vascular Health

You may already be taking medicines to ease leg pain or to help you manage other health problems. If you have these symptoms and have not been evaluated you should talk to your doctor to figure out what’s wrong and fix it. It is important to address any issues as they come up with any machine, no matter how well-designed it may be.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices

It’s important to do what you can to improve your heart health and possibly reverse the buildup of plaque in your arteries. PAD comes with a high risk of heart attack, stroke, or limb amputation. Making healthy changes today and following a treatment plan can reduce this risk. Here’s how you can get started:

  • Quit smoking and the use of tobacco products.
  • Be active! Try walking, swimming, or biking for at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods such as fruits, nuts and vegetables.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.

Medications

There are medications proven to help prevent blood clots, lower cholesterol, and lower blood pressure. However, these medicines are not a replacement for healthy lifestyle choices. Of course, medications are great non-surgical options for lowering your risk of heart attack and stroke.

You should always consult with a doctor when using medication to treat symptoms. If medication and a healthy lifestyle alone is not reducing the risks associated with PAD, you might need to explore other options that are available.

American Heart Health Month: How Coronary Artery Disease and PAD are related
February is American Heart Month. Find out how Coronary Artery Disease and Peripheral Artery Disease are related.

Minimally Invasive Surgery and Catheter-Based Procedures

Sometimes Peripheral Artery Disease requires advanced treatments. If you have severe PAD you may require a minimally invasive procedure to restore proper blood flow to the legs. If you think that you have Peripheral Artery Disease and want to know what course of treatment is best for you then it would be beneficial to get evaluated for PAD. Ultimately, your vascular health is very important and it is wise to make sure your body is working as intended.

Doctor PAD Advice | Modern Vascular 

Ask your Doctor About PAD

Do you have leg pain or cramps during normal activities like walking or climbing stairs? This could be a sign of peripheral artery disease. Luckily, PAD can be treated if diagnosed early and properly. Therefore, it is a great idea to know the warning signs and risk factors so that you know when you should talk with your doctor.

Are You at Risk For PAD?

Risk factors are anything that may increase a person’s chance of developing a disease. Some common factors are stress, activity, diet, family history, or lifestyle choices. Take note of the following risk factors so that you have a better understanding if you are at risk for Peripheral Artery Disease.

Inherent PAD Risk Factors

The inherent risk factors for PAD include some pre-existing conditions and demographic factors, including:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Age over 65
  • Wounds or ulcers on the legs or feet
  • Feet cold to the touch
  • History of stent or heart attack
  • Family history of heart disease

Learn more about PAD risk factors.

Treatable Conditions and Contributors

If none of those risk factors apply then you should also consider these treatable conditions:

Those who smoke or have diabetes have the highest risk of complications from PAD because these risk factors also cause impaired blood flow.

If you have been experiencing any of the symptoms of PAD and have any of the risk factors then you should ask your doctor if they think that it might be PAD. However, it would also be a good idea to have your doctor check if you are experiencing some of the risk factors without any symptoms. Around 50% of people with PAD do not experience any noticeable symptoms. Unfortunately, it can lead to problems if left untreated.

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