Prevent Amputation by Recognizing the Symptoms of P.A.D.
By Dr. Lee Yates
Have you heard any of your loved ones complain about leg pain and poor circulation? They may use the excuse that it is old age; maybe you are using this excuse as well. But before writing the symptoms off, consider getting checked for a disease affecting eight million Americans called Peripheral Artery Disease (P.A.D.).
September is P.A.D. awareness month and the perfect time to shed light on this issue; my hope is that if people can recognize their symptoms in time, we can prevent amputations.
So, first things first: What is P.A.D.?
A potentially life-threatening condition affecting one out of every 20 Americans over the age of 50, Peripheral Artery Disease, P.A.D., is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries limit blood flow in the legs and feet. When left untreated, this can lead to a more serious disease called, critical limb ischemia. When it continues to progress up to this point, the leg can face amputation.
How do you know if you have P.A.D.?
The first symptom that most people notice is muscle pain. P.A.D. can cause leg tiredness, cramping and pain when walking
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, this can be an indication that you are at risk for P.A.D.:
-Cold toes or feet
-Dry, discolored skin
-Pain while walking
-Nighttime leg pain
-Painful, heavy legs
-Numbness or burning sensations
-Wounds that won’t heal
-Gangrene or black tissue
Doctors can perform a noninvasive test that will determine ankle-brachia index. This test can determine if the patient has P.A.D. and its level of severity.
Who is at risk?
People who smoke or have diabetes have the greatest risk of developing P.A.D. due to reduced blood flow. Other risk factors include obesity; high blood pressure (140/90 millimeters of mercury or higher); high cholesterol (total blood cholesterol over 240 milligrams per deciliter, or 6.2 millimoles per liter); increasing age, especially after reaching 50 years of age; a family history of P.A.D., heart disease or stroke; and high levels of homocysteine.
How can someone prevent P.A.D.?
I recommend following a modified exercise program to help improve walking and lessen the symptoms of the disease. Regular exercise also decreases the chance of potential cardiovascular events, such as heart attack or stroke.
Also, avoid tobacco use as it increases the risk of P.A.D. by two to six times. Eat right and avoid red meats, foods high in sodium, and sugary foods and beverages. Keeping your cholesterol down can help too.
Already diagnosed with P.A.D.?
You can avoid an amputation if you catch the disease soon enough. Although P.A.D. is serious, it’s treatable.
Doctors can start treatment with minimally invasive surgeries. These can include an Angioplasty, where a catheter is threaded through a blood vessel to the damaged artery. The artery is opened with a small balloon to increase blood flow.
Another minimally invasive surgery done is an Atherectomy, a procedure done to remove plaque along the artery wall.
An invasive option used is arterial bypass surgery, which can help patients as it uses either a blood vessel or synthetic tube to keep the blood flowing.
Please keep in mind the severity of P.A.D. and the risk for an amputation. Researchers continue to explore new therapies for P.A.D. Although peripheral artery disease can be life-threatening, P.A.D. can be managed or even reversed with proper care.
To take a stand against amputation and learn more about P.A.D., visit http://www.standagainstamputation.com
A member of the Georgia Vascular Society and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, Dr. Lee Yates is the Medical Director of Vascular Surgery at St. Joseph’s Candler Health System.