Hardening of the Arteries Is a Red Flag for Vascular Disease, Including Heart Attack and Stroke
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD), also known as peripheral vascular disease (PVD), is a very common condition affecting 20 percent of Americans age 65 and older. Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) develops most commonly as a result of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which occurs when cholesterol and scar tissue build up, forming a substance called plaque inside the arteries. This is a very serious condition. The clogged arteries cause decreased blood flow to the legs, which can result in pain when walking, and eventually gangrene and amputation. Because atherosclerosis is a systemic disease (that is, affects the body as a whole), individuals with Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) are likely to have blocked arteries in other areas of the body. Thus, those with PAD are at increased risk for heart disease, aortic aneurysms and stroke. Peripheral Arterial Disease is also a marker for diabetes, hypertension and other conditions. Peripheral Arterial Disease may also be caused by blood clots.
Steps to take
- Call to schedule a consultation: During your consultation you will be able to ask questions and have your questions answered by a medical professional. This step will help you make an informed decision for your treatment options. Call 727-475-4039
- Day of consultation: Please arrive 20 minutes before your appointment to fill out necessary paperwork and a health questionnaire. Bring any patient history such as previous ultrasound imaging and notes from your primary care doctor (if you have any). During your consultation you will be evaluated based on symptoms and be able to ask questions plus get knowledgeable information to help you make an informed and educated decision on vascular disease treatment and care.
- Return for Ultrasound: If you have not already had diagnostic image testing done, you will return for an Ultrasound and ABI (Ankle Brachial Index, a test to measure the blood pressure in your legs). This test will provide us with the knowledge on which treatment if any needs to be applied.
- The day of your procedure: Please arrive 20 minutes before your appointment time to fill out additional paperwork and to go over simple instructions for your return home. The minimally invasive treatments offered here at Coastal Vascular Specialists are same day procedures, so you will be returning home that day. Please be sure to have someone with you. This person will be given a prescription for pain management if necessary.
PAD Symptoms: The most common symptom of Peripheral Arterial Disease PAD is called intermittent claudication, which is painful cramping in the leg or hip that occurs when walking or exercising and typically disappears when the person stops the activity.
- Numbness, tingling and weakness in the lower legs and feet
- Burning or aching pain in feet or toes when resting
- Sore on leg or foot that won’t heal
- Cold legs or feet
- Color change in skin of legs or feet
- Loss of hair on legs
- Have pain in the legs or feet that awakens you at night
- Many people simply live with their pain, assuming it is a normal part of aging, rather than reporting it to their doctor.
Prevalence: PAD is a disease of the arteries that affects 10 million Americans. Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) can happen to anyone, regardless of age, and is most commonly seen in men and women over age 50.
Risk Factors: Those who are at highest risk for PAD are
- Over age 50
- Inactive (and do not exercise)
- Have high blood pressure or high cholesterol or high lipid blood test
- Have a family history of vascular disease, such as PAD, aneurysm, heart attack or stroke
Diagnosis: The most common test for PAD is the ankle-brachial index (ABI) and Ultrasound. ABI is a painless exam in which Ultrasound is used to measure the ratio of blood pressure in the feet and arms. Based on the results of an ABI as well as one’s symptoms and risk factors for PAD, a doctor can decide if further tests are needed. PAD also can be diagnosed non-invasively with an imaging technique called Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA) or with Computed Tomography (CT) Angiography.
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is a major public health issue, and the Society of Interventional Radiology recommends greater screening efforts through the use of the ankle-brachial index (ABI) test. The ABI is a simple, painless test that compares the blood pressure reading in the arm and ankle. It is a direct measure of fatty plaque buildup in leg arteries and an indirect gauge of plaque accumulations throughout the entire cardiovascular system. The blood pressure in your arms and ankles is checked using a regular blood pressure cuff and a special ultrasound stethoscope called a Doppler. The pressure in your foot is compared to the pressure in your arm to determine how well your blood is flowing and whether further tests are needed. Because atherosclerosis is a systemic disease, individuals developing plaque in their legs are likely to have plaque building up in the carotid arteries, which can lead to stroke, or the coronary arteries, which can lead to heart attack. Early detection of PAD is important because these individuals are at significantly increased risk, and preventive measures can be taken. An individual with an ABI of 0.3 (high risk) has a two- to three-fold increased risk of five-year cardiovascular death compared to a patient with an ABI of 0.95 (normal or low risk).
Are You at Risk for Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)?
Contact Coastal Vascular Specialists at 727-475-4039 for a consultation in our Clearwater Florida office