When you first receive a diagnosis of peripheral artery disease (PAD), you may become concerned about the mortality rate. Can a person die from peripheral artery disease? It’s true that peripheral artery disease may be fatal if left untreated, and it can lead to significant complications. If left untreated, the condition can become serious, even fatal, and can lead to significant complications.
Once severe blockages and critical limb ischemia (CLI) develop, the chance for amputation rises dramatically. Less than 20% of CLI amputees are still alive after 5 years, potentially because the healing of an amputation wound is extremely slow and complicated when the vascular system is compromised due to PAD and CLI. We want to keep you from becoming part of this sobering statistic. At USA Vascular Centers, we believe no one should suffer from the pain, loss of mobility, and stress of a PAD diagnosis. With our personalized treatment approach at USA Vascular Centers, performed by experienced vascular experts, you can live an active and fulfilling life even with a PAD diagnosis.
PAD Symptoms and Risk Factors
Peripheral artery disease is a condition in which the arteries that carry blood away from the heart to other parts of the body are narrowed due to plaque buildup (atherosclerosis). If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, we encourage you to reach out to your primary doctor or a vascular specialist:
- Leg pain while exercising, also known as claudication
- Swelling in legs or feet
- Shiny skin on lower limbs
- Sores on feet and legs that don’t heal
- Loss of hair on lower limbs
- Slowed toenail growth
These are all symptoms of poor circulation in your lower limbs. If you are over the age of 65, or over age 50 and have additional risk factors, such as the ones below, you may be at an increased risk of developing PAD:
- Smoking or using tobacco
- Drinking heavily
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Peripheral Artery Disease Complications
The likelihood of developing PAD complications increases the longer you postpone treatment. If you have any of the risk factors for PAD or are over age 65, it’s worth seeking a PAD diagnosis.
It’s also important to know that not all PAD cases come with obvious symptoms. The majority of patients with PAD don’t know they have it because, in the early stages, PAD is typically asymptomatic. Patients may also mistake PAD-related pains, such as pain in the legs while walking, for normal symptoms of aging.
If you have any of the PAD risk factors and are experiencing pain, swelling, or changes of temperature in your lower limbs, seek help as soon as possible. A vascular specialist trained in diagnosing and treating PAD can help lower your chances of developing severe PAD and experiencing the complications that come with it.
Left untreated, PAD can worsen claudication symptoms until your leg pain is present all of the time, not just while exercising. This indicates that the plaque buildup in your arteries is accumulating and that you may be developing serious blockage in the lower limbs, also known as critical limb ischemia.
The lack of circulation can also result in sores and ulcers that do not heal and may become infected. Gangrene, or dead, dry tissue that turns purple or black before falling off, can also develop. Critical limb ischemia can progress to the point that in order to avoid serious infection and potential peripheral artery disease death, a surgeon may need to amputate the affected foot or leg.
PAD also puts you at increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. This is because if you have peripheral artery disease, you are at a high risk of developing coronary artery disease (CAD), which means you have plaque buildup in the arteries leading to your heart.
While most cases of PAD deal with arteries leading to the arms and legs, arteries leading to the head may also be impacted by PAD, putting you at increased risk of a transient ischemic attack (TIA), or “warning stroke,” in which blood flow to the brain is temporarily restricted but does not result in tissue death. It’s important to note that TIAs often occur in the months before a life-threatening stroke.
Restricted blood flow can also result in a more serious non-transient ischemic stroke, which can lead to paralysis, disability, and even death. In addition to strokes, clogged arteries are dangerous because a piece of plaque can break off the artery wall and cause a blockage in a different part of the vascular system.
Can a Person Die from Peripheral Artery Disease
When it comes to peripheral artery disease-related death, the culprit is typically atherosclerosis occurring in the peripheral arteries and throughout the rest of the body. Untreated or severe cases of gangrene caused by PAD can also be fatal. In short, peripheral artery disease can be fatal, but the good news is that with prompt treatment, even advanced cases of PAD can be improved, resulting in a lowered risk of peripheral artery disease death.
When to See a Doctor or Vascular Specialist
If you’re experiencing leg pain while walking that stops when you’re at rest, which is one of the most common symptoms of PAD, see a vascular specialist right away. You should also seek out a consultation with a doctor or vascular specialist if you have any of the risk factors or lifestyle risks associated with PAD.
A vascular specialist can conduct or order diagnostic tests, including an ankle-brachial index (ABI) test, blood tests, angiography, or ultrasound. Once you have a diagnosis, your vascular specialist may recommend lifestyle changes such as beginning an exercise routine, quitting smoking, lowering blood pressure, and eating a nutritious diet.
Your specialist may also prescribe medication to help manage your blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as lower your risk of developing clots. For advanced cases of PAD, your vascular specialist may decide to perform a minimally invasive treatment to widen blocked arteries, such as one of the following:
Schedule a Consultation with USA Vascular Centers
It’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible if you suspect that you have peripheral artery disease. Our network of vascular specialists at USA Vascular Centers can help diagnose, monitor, and treat PAD, which may lower your risk of complications and help prevent your peripheral artery disease from becoming fatal.