September is Peripheral Arterial Disease Awareness Month
PAD affects more than 10 million Americans, yet many go undiagnosed or undertreated. It is imperative to raise awareness of the signs, symptoms, and treatment options to prevent unnecessary limb amputations and improve the quality of life for patients.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs. People who experience PAD often report leg cramping, cold painful feet, or sores that won’t heal as well as skin color changes or gangrene.
Individuals are at greatest risk for PAD if you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes. African American and Hispanic populations are also at higher risk as are individuals with a history of smoking.
“A skilled vascular surgeon can easily make the diagnosis by palpating pulses and using a doppler to listen to blood flow. The appearance of any sores or wounds is also an important factor in making the diagnosis,” says Joseph Sabat, MD. He adds that there are other non-invasive ways to diagnose PAD including tests such as duplex ultrasound and CT scan.
Sabat shares that there are ways to prevent and slow the progression of PAD including smoking cessation.
“Smoking raises blood pressure, hardens arteries, and can cause blockages in arteries throughout the body,” he says. Sabat shares that other people at risk are those living with diabetes as they are prone to hardening arteries.
Patients with PAD should work with their primary care doctor to control blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Exercise has also shown to be beneficial in patients who have PAD and pain when walking.
“Unfortunately, there is no cure or treatment that will completely undo the damage done by smoking and diabetes,” shares Sabat.
Working with a vascular surgeon to know when and if a treatment or intervention is necessary is important once the diagnosis of PAD has been made. Treatment for PAD can include medical therapy, minimally invasive endovascular procedures, as well as more complex interventions and surgery.
PAD can involve many blood vessels in the body from the aorta to the small arteries in the foot. Vascular surgeons are the highly specialized physicians trained in all the modalities to treat PAD and can come up with an individualized treatment plan for you.
If you feel you are at risk for PAD, it is recommended to speak with your primary care physician or schedule an evaluation.
To schedule an appointment, call (520) 838-3540.