FAQ-About Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
What is PAD?
PAD, which can also be referred to as peripheral vascular disease (PVD), is the narrowing or blockage of arteries in various critical regions of the body.
Why is it important to screen for PAD?
Over 12 million Americans suffer from peripheral vascular disease, with approximately 200,000 amputations occurring annually, most due to vascular disease. Nearly half of the individuals who have an amputation due to vascular disease will die within 5 years. This is higher than the five-year mortality rates for breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. Peripheral arterial disease also has the highest 5-year cardiovascular mortality of any cardiovascular disease.
Fortunately, peripheral arterial disease is preventable and can be successfully managed and treated when discovered early, and with simple lifestyle changes. A simple test performed at our office can identify early peripheral arterial disease.
What is the Cause of PAD?
PAD happens when there is a buildup of fatty material, called plaque, inside your arteries. Another name for this condition is atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.The plaque deposits (also called calcifications) can cause your arteries to stiffen (calcify) and become narrowed or blocked, limiting the supply of oxygen-rich blood throughout your body. This can cause different health problems, depending on which arteries are blocked.
What are the Symptoms of PAD?
Lower extremity PAD affects the arteries that supply blood to the muscles in the legs. Three of the arteries most commonly blocked are the iliac artery, the superficial femoral artery (known as SFA), and the infrapopliteal arteries that are below the knee. When the main arteries in the legs become blocked by plaque, smaller arteries, called collateral pathways, take over as the main route to supply blood to the leg muscles. These smaller arteries can supply the muscles with enough blood when a person is at rest; but they can’t do a good enough job when a person is physically active and the leg muscles need more blood and oxygen.
People with lower extremity PAD often have pain or discomfort when walking or going about their daily tasks. Doing physical activities is often hard because of the decreased blood supply to the legs, usually causing symptoms to get worse over time unless they get treatment. These symptoms may include:
– Pain or tiredness in the lower extremities
– Buttock pain
– Burning or tingling in the feet
– Sores or breaks in the skin of the legs and feet
– Loss of hair on the feet or toes
– Aching in the feet or toes when at rest
– Changes in skin color (reddish, bluish, or pale discoloration)
– Decrease in skin temperature
– Impotence (inability to get or maintain an erection)
What will happen if PAD is left untreated?
PAD can cause a reduced quality of life due to mobility issues, pain, and discomfort, but is frequently misattributed to the normal aches and pains that come with aging. Not treating PAD in a timely manner can result in dire outcomes that affect patients’ life greatly, and can even lead to death.
PAD causes higher risk for heart attack, stroke, and heart failure.
A recent study has been conducted on more than 1600 patients, divided into two groups: one had previously been diagnosed with PAD and were being treated, while the other were newly diagnosed and not yet undergoing treatment. The result was overwhelming: the group who were not being treated had higher rates of heart disease than the group who had begun the treatment process.
PAD can lead to gangrene.
PAD is caused by the blockage of the blood vessels that supply blood to the lower extremities. This blood carries valuable oxygen to nourish the tissues and keep them healthy. When that blood supply is blocked, tissue starts to decompose, which can result in gangrene. This gangrenous tissue can cause threatening situations to both the limbs and the patient’s life.
PAD can lead to amputation.
Patients suffering from PAD who are over 80 years old run the highest risk for amputations – even higher than patients with diabetes. In women, patients with PAD (regardless of whether or not they have diabetes) have amputation rates 2.5 times higher than patients with diabetes alone. In men with both untreated PAD and diabetes, amputation rates are five times higher than patients with diabetes alone, and 1.5 times higher than those with PAD alone.
It is extremely important for patients with PAD to seek medical treatment as soon as possible, since PAD symptoms will worsen over time without medical and/or lifestyle interventions. Moreover, the longer the patients wait, the more expensive, invasive, and inconvenient the treatment will get.
Here’s a short animated video on PAD and Critical Limb Ischemia Treatment: