Peripheral artery disease or PAD is the narrowing of arteries due to fatty deposits. This results in reduced blood flow through the clogged artery. The condition most often occurs in the leg arteries but in some cases, the arteries in arms, head, stomach and kidneys may also be affected.
PAD most often occurs in older adults with co-morbidity conditions such as diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol. Managing these conditions and eating a balanced diet can help improve symptoms, but only to an extent. It’s important to be aware of the stages of PAD so you know what to watch out for.
If many of the risk factors of PAD apply to you, such as being an older adult, diabetic, or overweight, you may want to get evaluated for PAD before painful symptoms start to affect your life. Smoking also increases a the risk for developing PAD.
First Stage of PAD – Cramping and Pain
Whether a person has PAD symptoms or not, anybody with plaque in arteries is technically a PAD patient. Classic PAD symptoms include intermittent claudication which is characterized by cramping pain in calves and even in hips upon exertion. The pain gets better upon rest but returns when one begins to walk, climb or run.
Diabetes, old age, smoking and chronic kidney disease are among the leading factors for advanced PAD. Left untreated, the blood-starved tissue due to PAD blockage can become infected or die. This condition is known as gangrene.
Second Stage of PAD – Critical Limb Ischemia
PAD can result in critical limb ischemia or CLI if the person has:
- Two or more weeks of having pain at rest
- There are non-healing wounds, ulcers or gangrene in one or both legs
Advanced Stages of PAD
In advanced stages of PAD, amputation or surgical removal of the leg may be needed.
- When the person has undergone multiple procedures such as stenting and bypass graft to restore blood flow but treatment has failed, their disease has progressed due to some other health conditions and the person has run out of options.
- Someone rushing to an emergency room with gangrene of the foot and may require below the knee amputation.
- Someone with a non-functional limb may also require amputation.
Below the knee amputation is the most common form of amputation. A prosthetic limb (artificial limb) may be fitted to replace the missing body part.
Acute Limb Ischemia
ALI or acute limb ischemia is a heart attack equivalent to peripheral artery disease. When someone is having heart attack, the person is rushed to the cath lab for an emergency procedure. In ALI, the blood clot in the leg is abruptly broken and moves through the artery and completely blocks blood flow. It causes a weak pulse and the leg is extremely painful. It’s a medical emergency and the person may require an emergency procedure.
PAD is associated with a higher risk of heart disease and stroke, functional impairment and overall decreased quality of life.
Non-Surgical PAD Treatment
At USA Vascular Centers, our interventional radiologists provide non-surgical PAD treatment with the help of a procedure known as stenting with balloon angioplasty. To begin with your peripheral artery disease treatment, your condition will be diagnosed with through MRI, ABI index, doppler ultrasound, etc. Thereafter, a small area in your groin will be numbed so that you do not feel any pain when the incision is made. Through that nick, a camera mounted thin and flexible tube, called a catheter will be advanced and the doctor will visible see the blockage on the monitor. When it reaches the blockage, a harmless dye will be injected into it that will help the doctor see the exact location and size of the blockage.
USA Vascular Centers is also offering virtual consultations and online doctor visits due to COVID-19. In case you wish to book your virtual doctor visit, please call us at 888.773.2193, or request telemedicine scheduling with our PAD doctor. You can also discuss with our specialist on what are different stages of PAD. Depending on the state of your condition, you may be required to come in for a consultation immediately. PAD is a progressive condition that may get worse over time, this is why adequate treatment is important.