Sunday, May 13, 2012

What is Peripheral Arterial Disease? Part 1

Peripheral Arterial Disease (P.A.D.) is a serious circulatory problem in which the blood vessels that carry blood to your arms, legs, brain, or kidneys become clogged or narrowed. It affects 8 million Americans, most over the age of 50. It may result in leg discomfort with walking, poor healing or leg sores/ulcers, difficult to control blood pressure, or symptoms of stroke. People with P.A.D. are at significantly increased risk for stroke and heart attack.
Because only half of those who have P.A.D. actually experience symptoms, it is important that people with known risk factors be screened or tested for P.A.D.
The risk factors include:
  • Being over age 50
  • Smoking (currently or previously) 
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Personal or family history of P.A.D., heart disease, heart attack, or stroke. 
  • Sedentary lifestyle (infrequent or no exercise)
Signs and symptoms include:
  • Pain in the legs brought on by walking and relieved by rest.
  • Pain in the legs at rest due to poor circulation.
  • Poorly healing wound on lower extremity.
  • Injury to lower limb or foot involving blood vessels.
  • Discoloration of toes and feet.
Simple foot deformities (hammertoes, bunions, bony prominences) or dermatologic conditions such as ingrown or thickened fungal toenails often become more serious concerns when P.A.D. is present. Because the feet and legs of someone with P.A.D. do not have normal blood flow- and because blood is necessary for healing- seemingly small problems such as cuts, blisters, or sores can result in serious complications.
Having both diabetes and P.A.D. further increases the potential for foot complications. People with diabetes often have neuropathy (nerve damage that can cause numbness in the feet), so they don't feel pain when foot problems occur. When neuropathy occurs in people with P.A.D., ulcers can develop over foot deformities and may never heal. For this reason, P.A.D. and diabetes are common causes of foot or leg amputations in the United States.
Once detected, P.A.D. may be corrected or at least improved. The foot and ankle surgeon can then correct the underlying foot deformity to prevent any future problems should the circulation become seriously restricted again.
Next Time: Questions to ask if you think you are at risk for P.A.D.
Connecticut Foot Care Centers
Podiatrists in CT
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