Prevent Amputation by Recognizing the Symptoms of P.A.D.

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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
-Erectile dysfunction

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.

New Developments?

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

 

Dr. Lee Yates%2C Medical Director of Vascular Surgery at St. Joseph’s Candler Health System and founder of Savannah Surgery Center.JPG

Dr. Lee Yates – Savannah Surgery Center

 

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.

The FAQs of Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

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10 Things You Should Know about Peripheral Artery Disease By Dr. Lee Yates

If you are suffering from leg pain, burning or aching in your calves or a wound in your foot or leg that won’t heal, you may have peripheral artery disease. Also known as PAD, this condition that affects 8-12 million Americans can cause leg tiredness, cramping and pain when walking. PAD also raises the risk of heart attack, stroke, leg amputation and death.

Since September is PAD Awareness month, it is a great time to explore this topic. If you suspect you or a loved one may have PAD, consider these frequently asked questions about the disease:

1. What is PAD?
This is a common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to your limbs. When you develop PAD, your extremities — usually your legs — don’t receive enough blood flow to keep up with demand. This causes symptoms, most notably leg pain when walking. PAD is also likely to be a sign of a more widespread accumulation of fatty deposits in your arteries (atherosclerosis). This condition may be reducing blood flow to your heart and brain, as well as your legs.

2. What is the most common symptom of PAD?
The first symptom that most people notice is muscle pain. Depending on where the artery blockage is, the pain may affect different muscles in the calf, thigh, buttock, hip and/or foot.

3. Are there other signs and symptoms of PAD?
Some people experience numbness, achiness, or heaviness in the leg muscles when walking or climbing stairs. Other symptoms may include sores or wounds on the toes, feet or legs that heal poorly or not at all; coldness in the lower leg or foot, especially when compared with the other side; no pulse or a weak pulse in the legs or feet; skin on the legs that is shiny, pale or bluish; poor toenail growth; decreased hair growth on the legs and, in men, erectile dysfunction, especially among those who have diabetes.

4. What are the factors that might increase the risk of developing PAD?
People who smoke or have diabetes have the greatest risk of developing PAD 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 PAD, heart disease or stroke; and high levels of homocysteine.

5. Aren’t leg pain and numbness often a normal part of aging?
Don’t dismiss any symptom as a normal part of aging. PAD can be caught early by recognizing risk factors using readily available screening tools.

6. How is PAD managed?
Sometimes, surgery is necessary to minimize the risk for heart attack or stroke. Common management methods include medications that lower cholesterol or prevent blood clots; diabetes management; lifestyle change, such as quitting smoking; exercise programs; and regular follow-up care.

7. My symptoms don’t seem that bad. Why should I worry about it?
If you have undiagnosed PAD and systems continue to worsen, blocked blood flow can cause gangrene (tissue death), and in very serious cases, this can lead to leg amputation. PAD also increases your risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

8. Is PAD curable?
Although PAD is serious, it’s treatable. If you have the disease, see your doctor regularly so he or she can treat the underlying atherosclerosis to slow or stop disease progress and reduce the risk of complications. Treatments include lifestyle changes, medicines, and surgery or procedures. Researchers continue to explore new therapies for PAD.

9. What happens during the PAD screening?
The PAD screening is a quick, easy and non-invasive procedure called the ankle-brachial index (ABI) test. It is done by measuring blood pressure at the ankle and in the arm while a person is at rest.

10. Can PAD cause other health problems?
PAD may be the first warning sign of atherosclerosis – chronic fatty deposit build-ups – throughout your arteries. The whole circulatory system, including your heart and brain, are at risk when arteries are blocked and narrowed. Fatty deposits also increase the risk for vascular inflammation and blood clots that can block the blood supply and cause tissue death.

Although peripheral artery disease is potentially a life-threatening condition affecting one out of every 20 Americans over the age of 50, the good news is PAD can be managed or even reversed with proper care.

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.

Dr. Lee Yates, Medical Director of Vascular Surgery at St. Joseph’s Candler Health System and founder of Savannah Surgery Center

Dr. Lee Yates, Medical Director of Vascular Surgery at St. Joseph’s Candler Health System and founder of Savannah Surgery Center