September 25, 2018
Health & Fitness
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Are You At Risk For Peripheral Artery Disease?

Dr. Mariano Arosemena
Dr. Mariano Arosemena's picture
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April 3, 2018

Peripheral artery disease — also known as PAD — is a common, yet serious, condition. It occurs when extra cholesterol and other fats circulating in the blood collect on the walls of the arteries that supply blood to your limbs. This buildup narrows the arteries, often reducing or blocking the flow of blood.

PAD affects the blood vessels, causing them to narrow, therefore restricting the blood flow to the arms, kidneys, stomach and the most common part of the body, the legs. The Centers for Disease Control estimated that 8.5 million people in the United States have peripheral artery disease, affecting approximately 12 to 20 percent of Americans over 60.

Peripheral artery disease is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. PAD is more common in African-Americans than other racial groups, and men are slightly more likely than women to develop PAD. Peripheral artery disease is also more common in smokers. Although the condition can have serious consequences, physical activity can substantially improve symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of the disease include leg cramping, pain in the legs and feet during sleep, sores that do not heal or wounds on the feet, skin discoloration on the feet, poor nail growth and a difference of temperature from one leg to the other. When checking for PAD, the health care provider may order a simple noninvasive test called an ankle-brachial index (ABI). ABI compares the blood pressure readings in the ankles with the blood pressure readings in the arms. An ultrasound is performed to see whether a specific artery is open or blocked. This test uses soundwaves to measure the blood flow in the arteries in the arms and legs.

When treating PAD, the main goals are to reduce symptoms; improve quality of life and mobility; and prevent heart attack, stroke and amputation of any extremities. In most cases, PAD can be treated by making lifestyle changes and taking medication. Some more advanced cases do require a surgical procedure performed by a vascular surgeon.

If you believe you are at risk for having or developing PAD, speak with your health care provider and get tested. The earlier you know, the sooner you can begin a plan that works for you.

Mariano Arosemena, MD, is a vascular surgeon at the Vascular Center at University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center. He can be reached at 410-553-8300. Along with nurse practitioner Terry DeVeaux, he is hosting a free lecture, “Get a Leg Up on Vascular Disease,” on Wednesday, May 30, at UM BWMC at 6:30pm. Reservations are required. Call 410-787-4367.

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