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PAD and Diabetes: What’s the Relation?

Although managing diabetes may be challenging, there are important reasons to do so. For one, diabetes is a significant risk factor for peripheral artery disease (PAD).

PAD is a serious health condition that impacts the arteries. It can severely affect your quality of life, along with placing you at increased risk for dangerous health issues like stroke, heart attack, and limb amputation.

To reduce your risk of developing PAD, it is important to work with your doctor to control diabetes and other underlying conditions advises Dr. Yan Katsnelson. If PAD develops, we recommend seeking care from one of our leading vascular specialists at USA Vascular Centers.

How Is Peripheral Artery Disease Related To Diabetes?

Peripheral artery disease and diabetes are two separate, but related, health conditions. If you have diabetes, you are at increased risk for developing PAD. Approximately 20% of symptomatic PAD patients have diabetes.

The prevalence of peripheral artery disease in people with diabetes is difficult to determine. In part, this may be because some patients are asymptomatic. Others don’t report symptoms. Additionally, peripheral neuropathy due to diabetes may dull PAD-related pain. This may lead to diabetics disregarding early signs of PAD.

If you are an individual with diabetes and experience PAD symptoms, we encourage you to consult a vascular specialist as soon as possible.

Why Does Diabetes Increase Your Risk for Peripheral Artery Disease?

PAD is caused by atherosclerosis, a narrowing or blockage of arteries due to plaque buildup. The plaque consists of cholesterol, fat, cellular waste products, and fibrin.

Since your arteries carry blood and oxygen to the legs and throughout the body, they need to remain unobstructed by plaque to function properly. When atherosclerosis occurs in the lower extremities, PAD symptoms can begin to develop.

The most common symptom of PAD is claudication, muscle pain or weakness that begins with physical activity, such as walking, and stops within minutes after resting. Signs of advancing disease include leg pain at rest, arterial ulcers, and tissue damage.

High blood sugar levels due to diabetes can cause damage to arteries and contribute to plaque buildup. Many diabetics also struggle with high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, both additional risk factors for PAD. The presence of diabetes and two or more other risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, chronic kidney disease, and smoking increases your risk for PAD by 10 times.

Complications of PAD & Diabetes

Diabetes and PAD are both progressive diseases. This means that symptoms can worsen over time. Additionally, PAD, diabetes, and related health conditions can lead to serious health complications. Some of these include:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Critical limb ischemia
  • Limb amputation

Avoiding PAD as a Diabetic

If you have diabetes, Yan Katsnelson, M.D. suggests working closely with your doctor to reduce your risks of PAD. This may involve making lifestyle changes to improve the health of your arteries.

We generally recommend:

  • Maintain a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI): Being obese or overweight can increase your risk of developing PAD. If you need additional support to lose excess weight, ask your doctor about the benefits of medical and commercial weight loss programs.
  • Exercise regularly: Physical activity has been shown to promote better blood circulation. Try working your way up to at least 30 minutes of activity daily, five days a week.
  • Eat a healthy, well-rounded diet: Be sure to fill up your plate with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Also, avoid unhealthy substances like sodium, added sugar, and alcohol.
  • Quit smoking: Along with causing damage to your heart and lungs, smoking is a significant risk factor for PAD and other forms of vascular disease. If you need help quitting, consider joining a smoking cessation program.
  • Take medications as prescribed: Your doctor may prescribe medications to control your diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, or other health conditions. It is important to carefully follow instructions when taking these.
  • Consult a vascular specialist for personalized recommendations: If you are at risk for PAD, we can help identify beneficial lifestyle modifications. After all, you may be able to avoid future health issues by making recommended changes now.

Request a Consultation at USA Vascular Centers

We understand that developing PAD with diabetes is concerning. However, we also want to assure you that peripheral artery disease with diabetes can be treated. At USA Vascular Centers, we offer a range of treatment options to alleviate symptoms, reduce health risks, and improve your quality of life.

Your personalized treatment plan may include lifestyle modifications, medications, and medical treatments. We aim to make treatment as easy and convenient as possible. Our highly skilled and experienced vascular specialists provide minimally invasive, outpatient procedures in over 40 PAD treatment centers across the U.S.

To get started on your journey towards better vascular health, request a consultation with one of our experts today.

Dr. Yan Katsnelson is a philanthropist, business owner, and highly skilled cardiac surgeon. He is the Founder and CEO of USA Vascular Centers, which is part of USA Clinics Group, the parent company of USA Fibroid Centers, USA Vein Clinics, and USA Oncology Centers with more than 90 facilities nationwide. Dr. Yan has established himself as a strong advocate for accessibility and affordability of the most advanced medical care close to home, and his mission is to create a positive experience for each patient with compassionate, personalized, and expert care.

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