Did you know that you could have a potentially deadly disease and not even know it? When peripheral artery disease (PAD) initially presents it is a silent disease. Early on, there aren’t any symptoms that your arteries are becoming stiff and narrow. In fact, more than half of patients with PAD do not experience any symptoms at all.
It’s typically not until you’ve engaged in an activity that your body will start to tell you that the tissues are not getting enough oxygen. Claudication is cramping in the calves, ankles, or feet during activities like walking, or climbing stairs, that subsides at rest.
Pay Attention to The Signs & Symptoms
Peripheral artery disease is the narrowing of peripheral arteries due to atherosclerosis, which is the word used to describe plaque buildup on arterial walls. This causes a decrease in blood flow to the legs, feet, and toes. Lack of blood to the lower limb extremities can cause symptoms in the legs and feet like numbness, cramps, weakness, wounds that won’t heal, and discoloration. If it is left treated, peripheral artery disease can progress into infections and gangrene that may require amputation.
Foot wounds that do not heal or heal slowly are an important sign of PAD and an indication that you need to see a specialist immediately. The development of a diabetic foot ulcer can lead very rapidly to infection of the bone, which can very rapidly lead to amputation. At Modern Vascular, there are interventional radiologists that specialize in the revascularization techniques that can treat PAD.
In the US, only one year after a major amputation the mortality rate is about 48%. Critical limb ischemia is an advanced form of PAD when the blood is unable to flow to the foot. If blood flow cannot be returned to the foot or leg, then surgical amputation may be considered. Early detection of PAD is crucial so that a doctor can intervene before the disease progresses to that point. Of all surgical amputations that occur, about 54% are the results of conditions that affect the flow of blood, like diabetes and PAD.
Get Evaluated For Peripheral Artery Disease
Evaluations typically start with a review of your medical history and the current medications that you’re taking. Then, a physical examination is performed the pulse is measured in the legs and arms. Next, an ultrasound evaluation is performed for a real-time look at the velocity and the quality of the blood flow.
When there is a reduction in the caliber of a vessel that is 50% or greater, the force and velocity of the blood flow are reduced sufficiently to cause symptoms to present. In these cases, minimally invasive treatment is recommended to help open up that artery. Not every evaluation leads to a procedure. Many patients are recommended lifestyle modifications and a follow-up with their doctor to see if their symptoms have improved.