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Learn about peripheral artery disease and its treatments

If you, or someone you know, smokes, has high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, or has a family history of these conditions, chances are strong that peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, will touch your lives. Here we’ll discuss PAD and artery disease treatments. However, to learn about PAD’s evil twin -- venous disease and vein disease treatments – please click here.

Peripheral Artery Disease or PAD

Patients with PAD have blockages in the blood vessels going to their legs. PAD is caused by atherosclerosis -- or hardening of the arteries – which is a build-up of plaque, or fatty deposits, in the walls of the blood vessels. This is the same disease that can block arteries going to the heart (coronary artery disease) and the brain (cerebrovascular disease). Therefore, patients with PAD also have an increased risk of having a stroke or heart attack. PAD affects up to 12 million Americans; 12 percent to 20 percent of those over the age of 65.

Southeastern Vein Specialists

What are the symptoms of PAD?

Pain in the muscles of the legs when walking. Called intermittent claudication (IC) this is the most-common early symptom of PAD. When you have arteries that are blocked by PAD, you can’t get enough extra blood to your muscles, so after walking for a few minutes, your legs may get tired, feel heavy, ache, or begin to hurt forcing you to stop. When you rest, the pain goes away, but it comes back after you walk again for a few more minutes. Mild claudication (IC) may seem like just a nuisance, but it can become very disabling.

Pain in the muscles of the legs even when you are resting. Called critical limb ischemia (CLI), this is considered severe PAD. Patients with CLI often have pain in their feet or toes. They can also develop ulcers or sores on their feet and ankles, which can progress to dead tissue, or gangrene. Untreated, patients with CLI can eventually lose a leg.

Many patients with PAD have no symptoms at all.

Who is at risk for PAD?

Women get peripheral artery disease, but it is more common in men. Risk increases with age. Other risk factors for PAD include:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Family history
  • Obesity

Diagnosing PAD

After checking your medical history, your doctor from Southeastern Vein Specialists will do a diagnosis involving any combination of the following: check the pulses in your arms and legs, check the blood pressure in your legs, take X-Rays, do an MRI or CT scan of the blood vessels, other.

Treating PAD with one or more recommendations

Then comes treatment. And, even patients without symptoms need treatment for the disease that causes peripheral artery disease: atherosclerosis. Your doctor will likely recommend one or more of the following, depending on the severity of your peripheral artery disease:

  • A mild blood thinner such as aspirin
  • A cholesterol-lowering medication
  • Blood pressure medicines
  • A medication called Cilostazol -- helpful for some patients with claudication
  • Dietary modifications
  • An exercise program
  • That you quit smoking
  • A surgical artery bypass (uncommon today)
  • Minimally invasive endovascular procedures and/or stents that open up blockages (more common)*

Click here to learn more about our Endovascular Center or visit the dedicated website today!

*While still done in hospitals, many vascular specialists are now often able to perform these minimally invasive procedures in their offices. That group includes our team of medical professionals here at Southeastern Vein Specialists. We have the advantage of being able to diagnose and treat patients at our new, state-of-the-art Southeastern Vascular Outpatient Endovascular Center in Hyannis, MA on the Cape.

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