What is PAD?
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD), also known as atherosclerotic disease or hardening of the arteries, is a process of increasing blockages of arteries from the development of plaque. This is the same process that can cause heart attacks from blockages in the heart arteries and strokes from blockages of the carotid arteries. When this occurs in the arteries bringing blood to the legs we call it peripheral vascular disease. This can cause pain in the legs with exercise such as walking which is called claudication. If this process continues it can lead to pain even without walking and possibly risk of tissue loss in the foot or leg. By intervening early with medication, endovascular procedures or vascular surgery the surgeons of NGPG Vascular Center can help reduce the risk of complications from this disease.
Who is at Risk?
People who are at risk for peripheral arterial disease include those who have a positive family history for atherosclerotic disease whether it was a history of heart attack, stroke, or limb loss from gangrene. It is more commonly found in males and also in diabetics. People who smoke are also at increased risk. Diet control for sugar and cholesterol management, along with regular exercise and avoidance of tobacco, including second hand smoke, will lessen the chances of significant arterial disease. The early symptoms of PAD will be the development of pain in the leg, usually in the calf, while walking. Patients note that the amount that they can walk is limited to a specific distance and is consistent every day.
Frequently, patients who have significant arthritis that limits their activity will have “good and bad” days whereas the patients with vascular pain have the same pain at the same distance every day and the pain resolves within a few minutes of rest. They can then walk another specific distance before having to stop again. Walking up an incline or having to walk at a faster pace will usually bring on the symptoms quicker and at a shorter distance.
We Can Help
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms NGPG Vascular Center can help with your evaluation. The blood supply to the legs can be checked with a machine that uses blood pressure cuffs to measure the amount of blood flowing in the vessels. This painless procedure is performed along with the use of ultrasound waves to measure the actual velocity of the blood flowing in the arteries. This can determine if a problem exists. Imaging studies are then performed to pinpoint the exact location of the problem. These tests may include CT scans or Magnetic Resonance scans to visualize the blood vessels and look for blockages.
Arteriograms can also be performed which require the placement of a small tube called a catheter inside the blood vessel and injecting contrast to see the blocked areas. By analyzing the results of these tests your surgeon can recommend the appropriate treatment for your particular problem either in the form of medication, stents, or bypass surgery. The goal of this therapy is first to prevent loss of limb and second, to improve your level of activity so you can enjoy the things you do on a daily basis.