Early Treatment Can Limit Impact of Peripheral Arterial Disease

April marks Foot Health Awareness Month and Ankle & Foot Care Centers is spreading awareness of peripheral arterial disease (PAD), which affects more than 18 million people in the United States.

PAD is a vascular disease caused by plaque build-up and the hardening of arteries, limiting blood flow to the legs and feet.

Dr. Mark S. Smesko, a podiatric physician with Ankle & Foot Care Centers, warns his patients to be aware of some common symptoms of PAD because it is crucial to seek early treatment and implement a prevention plan.

Symptoms of PAD

 “Patients with PAD can experience pain, numbness, burning in the legs and feet, cold toes and feet, loss of hair growth on the lower legs and feet as well as wounds on the lower limbs that won’t heal,” Dr. Smesko says. “People with PAD may also experience a condition called intermittent claudication, which is when they get extreme cramping in their legs and feet with activity, forcing them to have to sit down. They can get this from walking just a short distance.”

In more progressive cases of PAD, patients who experience intermittent claudication might also have rest pain.

“Patients can experience rest pain at night, due to a lack of blood flow while laying down,” Dr. Smesko explains. “They have to sit up, stand up and move around to improve blood flow back to the extremity. Rest pain is a sign of more severe disease than intermittent claudication.”

Common Risk Factors

 Individuals with diabetes are more at risk to experience PAD, Dr. Smesko warns.

“One in three patients who have diabetes and are over age 50 are likely to have PAD,” says Dr. Smesko. “A patient with both diabetes and PAD has a ten times greater risk for amputation.”

Other risk factors include smoking, hypertension, kidney disease and increased age.

Prevention and Treatment

Dr. Smesko recommends those at risk to manage their diabetes, get annual foot exams, stop smoking, keep blood pressure under control and stay active.

“If a patient has clinical signs of PAD, I order an arterial exam. This is a noninvasive test that detects blood pressures and wave forms at various levels of the leg, ankle and feet,” says Dr. Smesko. “If that comes back abnormal, I refer the patient to a vascular surgeon for evaluation and treatment.

“Sometimes patients with PAD may end up finding out they also have cardiac issues. About 60 percent of patients with PAD also have coronary artery disease. Therefore, it is crucial for individuals to seek treatment early, as soon as they experience any symptoms.”

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Peripheral Arterial Disease Questionnaire

If you answer Yes to the questions below, you may be at risk for vascular disease. If you or someone you know may be at risk for PAD, contact one of our 20 locations today and make an appointment with a podiatric physician.

Do you experience any pain while at rest in your lower leg(s) or feet?

Yes   No

Do you have foot, calf, buttock, hip, or thigh discomfort (aching, fatigue, tingling, cramping or pain) when you walk, which is relieved by rest?

Yes   No

Do you have an infection, skin wound, or ulcer on your feet or toes that is slow to heal (8-12 weeks)?

Yes   No

Do you have high cholesterol level or other blood lipid problem, or do you take medication to lower your cholesterol?

Yes   No

Do you have high blood pressure or take medication for high blood pressure?

Yes   No

Do you have diabetes?

Yes   No

Have you ever smoked?

Yes   No

Have you previously had a stroke?

Yes   No

Do you have heart disease?

Yes   No

Do your legs hurt at night?

Yes   No

To stop the pain, do you hang your legs over the side of the bed?

Yes   No

Do you raise your legs to stop them from hurting?

Yes   No