November is Diabetes Awareness Month
Every November, communities across the globe recognize Diabetes Awareness Month. The goal of Diabetes Awareness Month is to inform the public about what it’s like to have diabetes. Some organizations push to find a cure for the disease. Others raise awareness of the risk factors and early signs of the disease. Still, others share information on how to manage diabetes and help prevent serious complications.
National Diabetes Month 2022’s focus is on highlighting prediabetes and sharing strategies to prevent diabetes from developing in the first place.
At USA Vascular Centers, we highlight the condition during Diabetes Awareness Month because both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are major risk factors for PAD. Because type 1 diabetes often develops in childhood and is thought to occur due to genetics and environmental factors, much of the focus during Diabetes Awareness Month is on type 2 diabetes, which is more easily preventable.
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes and are worried about peripheral artery disease, the knowledgeable vascular doctors at USA Vascular Centers can help. Our team comes highly recommended, and each doctor is an expert in diagnosing and treating PAD.
We often hear about diabetes and how it is a lifelong battle for people who are diagnosed with this disease. The most common form of this condition is type 2 diabetes, which affects the way your body uses insulin. Over 30 million people living in the United States are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 
WHAT IS TYPE 2 DIABETES?
Type 2 diabetes is a preventable condition often caused by lifestyle factors, such as obesity, physical inactivity, and being overweight.
We know that in people with type 2 diabetes, insulin is not used properly by the body. Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas to help turn glucose from the food you eat into energy for your cells. People with type 2 diabetes are unable to use insulin as they should. This is known as insulin resistance, and it causes the pancreas to make more insulin. This leads to the build-up of sugar in your blood.²
RISK FACTORS AND SYMPTOMS OF TYPE 2 DIABETES
Type 2 diabetes can be caused by both uncontrollable and controllable risk factors. Risk factors you can control include getting exercise less than 3 times a week, being overweight, smoking and controlling your diet.
Risk factors you can’t controlalter include being over the age of 45, having a family history of diabetes, or having had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy, or being of African American, Alaskan Native, Native American, Hispanic or Latino, or Pacific Islander-American descent.
Other causes include pancreatitis, trauma, and pancreatic cancer. Hormonal conditions such as Cushing’s disease, which causes the body to produce too much cortisol (stress hormone), can also contribute to type 2 diabetes. If you have any of these risk factors, it is important to look out for symptoms of type 2 diabetes. These symptoms can be:
- Increased level of thirst
- Increased frequency of urination
- Blurred vision
- Feeling tingling or numbness in your hands or feet
- Slow or non-healing wounds
- More frequent yeast infections
- Mood swings
Having one or multiple of these symptoms can be an indication of type 2 diabetes. Talking with your doctor will help you manage this disease; however, you need to understand that type 2 diabetes is not curable. This makes it essential that you and your doctor make up a plan to treat type 2 diabetes, so you don’t develop more serious conditions. Type 2 diabetes can become difficult to manage on its own, but it can also increase your risk of developing other conditions, like peripheral artery disease (PAD).
Diabetes: A Major Risk Factor for PAD
One in every three people over 50 with diabetes is likely to develop PAD. According to the American Heart Association, diabetes increases your risk of developing atherosclerosis, which is the main cause of PAD. Atherosclerosis is the buildup of fats and cholesterol (plaque) in or on your artery walls, restricting blood flow.
PAD occurs when the arteries supplying blood to your limbs, most commonly your feet or legs, become clogged with plaque to such a degree that blood cannot flow through your limbs. Even if you don’t think you have peripheral artery disease in addition to your diabetes, it’s important to know the signs of PAD since you are at an increased risk of developing the condition.
How Does Diabetes Cause Peripheral Artery Disease?
Diabetes affects the arteries, causing the inner lining to be rough and susceptible to plaque buildup. Excess blood sugar in the blood, the central feature of diabetes, contributes to atherosclerosis and promotes plaque buildup in the arteries. If diabetes is well-controlled, the risk of damage can go down. However, poorly controlled diabetes, on the other hand, increases the damage and risk of peripheral artery disease-related diabetes.
SYMPTOMS OF PAD
People with PAD usually experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Pain in your legs or feet that disturbs your sleep
- Slow or non-healing wounds on your legs or feet
- Difficulty climbing stairs
- Fatigue, heaviness, tiredness, or cramping in your leg muscles that stops when you’re at rest
- Lower temperature in one leg compared to the other
- Poor toenail growth
- Decreased hair growth on your legs or feet
- Color changes to the skin on your feet
Many people with PAD may not seek treatment because they think their pain is caused by arthritis or aging. This common misconception may cause people to put off getting diagnosed and treated, which can be life-threatening.
Complications of Diabetes and PAD
During Diabetes Awareness Month and throughout the year, it’s important to look at what happens if you develop diabetes and PAD. Diabetes can damage many parts of the body, including the nerves in the feet and legs. At the same time, PAD results in restricted blood flow to the legs and feet. This combination can have severe consequences.
For example, if the nerves in your feet have sustained damage due to diabetes, you may overlook the open sore festering on your foot. This is a sign of advanced PAD; without treating the underlying PAD, the sore could lead to gangrene, limb death, and the need for lifesaving amputation. The encouraging news is that diabetes management and PAD treatment can help prevent these complications of diabetes and PAD.
Who Should I See If I Suspect I Have Peripheral Artery Disease?
If you suspect that you have peripheral artery disease and diabetes, reach out to a vascular doctor at USA Vascular Centers. Our doctors provide the comfortable care you deserve when diagnosing and treating PAD.
USA Vascular Centers has a prominent presence of 40 locations throughout the United States, and our outpatient centers are accredited by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC). This indicates that we meet and exceed stringent standards for patient care. We also qualify for Medicare and Medicaid through our AAAHC accreditation. If you have diabetes and are worried you may have peripheral artery disease, our team is ready to help.
In addition, each of our outpatient centers is equipped with its own state-of-the-art cath lab. All PAD diagnoses and treatments are done on-site on an outpatient basis, meaning you can return to the comfort of your home the same day. We also work with a variety of insurance companies, and your USA Vascular Centers care team will help you maximize the benefits of your insurance.
Diagnosis and Treatment Plan for Peripheral Artery Disease
Our skilled vascular doctors and interventional radiologists at USA Vascular Centers diagnose and treat PAD every day. They provide several methods of diagnosing PAD, including ankle-brachial index tests and angiography. In an ankle-brachial index test, the blood pressure in your ankles and arms is assessed and then compared. The vascular doctor will divide the blood pressure in your ankle by the blood pressure of your arm, and the resulting number helps the specialist know if you have PAD.
Angiography involves inserting contrast dye into the vascular system. Using x-ray and other types of imaging, the physician can then determine the locations of any blockages resulting from diabetes and PAD.
Once you have a PAD diagnosis, your vascular doctor will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan. We offer three minimally invasive procedures to treat PAD symptoms: atherectomy, stent placement, and angioplasty.
For an atherectomy, the physician guides a catheter into the vascular system and removes the plaque using a laser or small blade. An angioplasty also utilizes a catheter, but instead of removing the plaque, the doctor will inflate a tiny balloon that compresses the plaque against artery walls. A stent placement is an angioplasty with an additional step: putting a mesh stent inside the artery to keep it from closing again.
These procedures take our vascular doctors between 30 and 45 minutes to complete. You won’t need general anesthesia or stitches, and recovery is quicker than it would be with a surgical procedure.
Along with diabetes and PAD treatments, your doctor may recommend making some lifestyle changes. These could include quitting smoking, taking medication or other steps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, eating a healthy diet, losing weight, and getting regular exercise.
NON-SURGICAL PAD TREATMENT AT USA VASCULAR CENTERS
Now that you know the answer to the question, “Why does diabetes cause peripheral artery disease?” along with more about the link between diabetes and PAD, you can take preventive steps this Diabetes Awareness Month and all year long.
Take control of your vascular health and help increase life expectancy by talking to your doctor or reaching out to USA Vascular Centers. Our doctors are trained in minimally invasive procedures and will walk you through your entire treatment process. You don’t need to suffer with debilitating symptoms any longer: take the next step by scheduling an initial consultation today.
- A Diabetic’s Guide to Peripheral Artery Disease
- HDL and LDL Cholesterol: What You Should Know
- Research Suggests Widespread Lack of P.A.D. Awareness
- The High Blood Pressure Epidemic
“Type 2 Diabetes.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, December 16, 2021. Accessed 13 October 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/type2.html.
 “Diabetes.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, August 9, 2022. Accessed 13 October 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20371444.
 “National Diabetes Month 2021.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed October 13, 2022. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/community-health-outreach/national-diabetes-month.
 “Symptoms & Causes of Diabetes.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed October 13, 2022. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/symptoms-causes.
 “Patient Education: Diabetes and Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).” Fairview Health Services, 2019. Accessed 13 october 2022. https://www.fairview.org/Patient-Education/Articles/English/d/i/a/b/e/Diabetes_and_Peripheral_Arterial_Disease_PAD_89799