By Kirstin Rizk
September kicks off Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) Awareness Month so we are sparking conversations about preventing and controlling PAD. In this post, we hope to increase awareness of disease management methods for patients who already know they have PAD.
With PAD, arteries in the feet and legs are too clogged to deliver a healthy supply of blood to the tissues of the legs and feet. In mild to moderate PAD, though it can be slightly painful, the first course of treatment is usually a walking plan because it reinforces “collateral” pathways for blood to travel if it cannot make its way through the main arteries because they are too clogged. Walking increases heart rate and blood pressure for the duration of exercise which helps to reinforce these naturally made bypasses. Continuing a walking plan strengthens these collaterals and it gets less painful to walk.
However, with PAD that is further advanced, the collaterals are also too clogged to provide enough blood supply to keep muscles in the calves and feet oxygenated. Pushing through the pain during walking is too painful and likely fruitless because the main arteries and collateral arteries are all far too occluded to maintain the high oxygen demand of walking.
When this occurs, it’s very difficult for the patient because it feels like their health is taken out of their control. They can’t exercise, maintain a healthy heart rate or weight, and are often forced to give up outdoor hobbies they love. This process can be equally detrimental to mental health as it is for physical health.
Unable to make much headway on managing their PAD with diet and medication alone, Modern Vascular then recommends a revascularization procedure. It gives Modern Vascular physicians immense pride to do an outpatient procedure and have the patient home again the same day with their autonomy back. After a revascularization procedure, the arteries of the legs have been cleared, sometimes stents are placed, and blood is once again pumping adequately through the legs and feet.
After revascularization, patients can begin walking/exercising again which maintains their newly opened arteries. Between the ability to exercise again and implementing a heart-healthy diet low in fats and simple sugars, patients can take control of their own health again. Finally, patients have their autonomy back and no longer feel helpless in their own health.
A case study representing this: Geoffrey Potts loved woodworking, hunting, fishing, biking, and walking. When Geoff began experiencing PAD symptoms around 2014, the distance he could walk through the pain got shorter and shorter until he had to give up his outdoor hobbies. He didn’t feel like his health was something he had any control over. Finally, in 2021, he saw Dr. Juan Carlos Correa at Modern Vascular in Kansas City. Dr. Correa finally solved the problem keeping Geoff from doing the things he loved. After his revascularization procedure, Geoff’s pain was so significantly improved and he returned to his favorite outdoor pastimes with such fervor that he lost 60 lbs. Geoff is a perfect example of someone who, thanks to a revascularization procedure, could take his health back into his hands.
Whether a PAD patient’s disease is severe enough to have an endovascular intervention or not, it is important to remember that PAD is a lifelong disease. Patients with PAD should have follow-up appointments with their vascular specialist every year or as often as their specialist suggests.