September 16, 2019
September is PAD Awareness month. Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) affects as many as 12 million people in the United States, and increases in prevalence with age. One in every eight Americans older than 60 years of age have PAD, but only 25 percent of the general population is aware of the disease.
PAD develops when arteries become completely or partially blocked with plaque deposits that limit blood flow to legs. Just like clogged arteries in the heart, clogged arteries in the legs increase the risk of heart attack, stroke or even death. Atherosclerosis (plaque buildup) in the legs does not always cause symptoms, so many people can have PAD and not know it. People who do experience symptoms, such as pain or cramping in the legs, often do not report them, believing they are a natural part of aging or due to another cause.
Common risk factors include high cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, inactivity, atherosclerosis and age. As many as six million people with diabetes are affected by PAD, making it one of the primary co-morbidities of diabetes. Chronic toe and foot sores are common in people with PAD, as are cramping, numbness, weakness or heaviness in the leg muscles. Those who have any of the risk factors for PAD should ask their health care professional about PAD. A physician can check for signs of the disease with a simple test of pulses in the feet.
“While some with PAD do not experience symptoms, people should be aware of certain factors that put them more at risk,” says Michael Sears, DPM, director of the Center for Wound Healing. “Smokers are four times at greater risk, African Americans are three times as likely to have PAD, and one in every three people over the age of 50 with diabetes is likely to have the disease.”
The Center for Wound Healing recommends the following action steps to help manage PAD:
- Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, correcting blood pressure and cholesterol numbers
- Develop healthy eating habits and an exercise plan
- Exercising can help increase the circulation and reduce pain in the lower extremities. Walking, hiking and bike riding are good exercise options. A personal trainer can help tailor a custom workout plan that best fits a person’s needs.
- Medications – Always consult with a physician about which medications may help PAD and if they are needed.
- Special procedures and surgeries – In some severe cases of PAD, surgery may be needed to open arteries that have narrowed. Consult with a physician to see if surgery is a necessary treatment.
- Regular foot exams can identify any open sores early.
For more information, please contact the Center for Wound Healing at https://www.rbmc.org/center-for-wound-healing/ or 732-324-3152.