PAD and You
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is caused by blockage from the buildup of plaque in your arteries that supply oxygenated blood to your legs and arms. When you develop PAD, your extremities, usually your legs, don’t receive enough blood flow to keep up with demand. PAD is commonly a sign of a more widespread accumulation of fatty deposits in your arteries known as atherosclerosis, which can reduce blood flow to your heart and brain as well as your legs.
Although many people with peripheral arterial disease have no symptoms, many have leg pain while walking, a condition that’s called claudication. These symptoms include muscle pain or cramping in the legs or arms triggering by activity but disappears after a few minutes of rest. The location of the pain depends on the location of the clogged or narrowed artery. Calf pain is the most common. Severity also varies widely, from mild discomfort to debilitating pain. Severe claudication can make it difficult to walk or perform other physical activity.
Other symptoms can include:
- Leg numbness or weakness
- Coldness in the lower leg or foot, especially when compared with the other side
- Sores on the toes, legs or feet that won’t heal
- A change in the color of your legs
- Hair loss or slower hair growth on the feet and legs
- Slower toenail growth
- Shiny skin on the legs
- No pulse or a weak pulse in the legs and feet
- Erectile dysfunction in men
When peripheral arterial disease progresses, pain may even happen when you’re at rest or lying down. It may also be intense enough to disrupt sleep. Hanging your legs over the edge of the bed or walking around the room may temporarily relieve pain.
WHO NEEDS PAD SCREENING
Unfortunately, many people ignore the symptoms, placing themselves at risk. Even if you don’t have symptoms, the professionals at VIVAA may recommend screening of you have one or more risk factors. The risk of PAD increases as you get older.
We may recommend screening if you fall into one of the following categories:
- Over age 70
- Over age 50 and have a history of diabetes or smoking
- Under age 50 and have diabetes, are obese, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol
WHAT HAPPENS IF PAD IS NOT TREATED
Patients with PAD have a higher risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack or stroke. When left untreated, this condition can lead to the development of gangrene in a limb, as well as amputation.
Fortunately, PAD is easy to diagnose. At VIVAA, we use a number of technologies to definitively determine if you are suffering from PAD. A physical exam is the first step. Dr. Sidhu may find a weak or absent pulse below a narrowed area of your artery. Whooshing sounds over these arteries may be heard with a stethoscope, while evidence of poor wound healing in the area where blood flow is restricted may be present. Decreased blood pressure in the affected limbs is another sign.
Other tests to diagnose the condition can include:
- Ankle-brachial index (ABI) is a common test used to diagnose PAD where your doctor uses a regular blood pressure cuff on the ankle and on your arm for medical evaluation. To properly capture the severity of the readings, you may walk on a treadmill before and after the readings are taken.
- Dr. Sidhu commonly uses ultrasound to diagnose peripheral arterial disease. In this test, the ultrasound technologist can scan the arteries and actually see the plaque and degree of blockage. This test helps Dr. Sidhu evaluate blood flow through your blood vessels and identify blocked or narrowed arteries.
- Angiography utilizes a contrasting dye inserted into blood vessels, which allows VIVAA surgeons to track the flow of blood through your arteries as it happens through imaging techniques such as X-rays, magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) or computerized tomography angiography (CTA).
- Catheter angiography is more invasive as it involves guiding a catheter through an artery in your groin to the affected area and injecting dye through that. Although invasive, this type allows for simultaneous diagnosis and treatment by finding the narrowed area of a blood vessel and then widening it with a dilating procedure or administering medication to improve blood flow.
- Blood tests to measure your cholesterol and triglycerides and to check for diabetes
PAD is easy to treat. Patients can take control by making healthy lifestyle changes and following Dr. Sidhu’s recommendations. For less severe cases, lifestyle changes and medication are all that is needed. If you are someone who smokes, quitting is the single most important thing you can do.
Treatment has two major goals: to manage symptoms so you can resume physical activity and to stop the progression of atherosclerosis throughout your body to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Lifestyle changes can sometimes accomplish these goals. If you are someone who smokes, quitting is the single most important thing you can do.
If the disease severity is high and lifestyle modifications are not enough then intervention is needed. These days most of the interventions are endovascular and that involves angiogram, atherectomy, angioplasty and or stenting depending upon the blockage and location.
Angioplasty widens the artery via a catheter with a small balloon on the end. The balloon is slid into place at the blockage and inflated to break the plaque and let blood flow normally. A stent is slid into place to keep the artery open. The stent may have medicine on it to prevent further blockage.
An atherectomy is another modality that is helpful for treating blockages in arteries. Atherectomy catheter has a sharp blade on the end that scrapes plaque from artery walls and then collects it for removal.
All endovascular procedures are done outpatient and most patients are back to their normal activity level the next day.
60 years old male with pain in left leg on walking and pain in left foot at night with occluded superficial femoral artery and tibial vessel disease treated in office with atherectomy and balloon angioplasty. Home in 4 hours and back to normal activity level the next day.
If you’re looking for comprehensive peripheral arterial disease treatment, get in touch with the double board-certified surgeon at Vein Vascular, Primary Care & Aesthetic Associates. We serve the communities of Everett, Issaquah, Kirkland, Newcastle, Seattle and Sammamish. For more information or to make an appointment, call us at 425-250-9999 or use our online Request an Appointment form.
FEMORAL ARTERY ANATOMY VIA GROIN INCISION PICTURES
*Photo courtesy of Dr. Sidhu
When you need vascular and endovascular procedures or vascular ultrasound, choose the double board-certified surgeon at Vein, Vascular & Aesthetic Services. For more information or to make an appointment, call us today at 425-250-9999. For your convenience, you can use our online Request an Appointment form.