At risk for PAD?
It affects between 8 and 12 million people in the United States, but the majority of them don’t know they have it. It has the same five-year mortality rate as breast and colorectal cancer. What is it? It’s peripheral arterial disease (PAD), and if left untreated, it can lead to leg amputation or even death.
PAD is a circulatory problem that narrows arteries and reduces blood flow to limbs (typically your legs). It’s often caused by plaque build-up in your arteries. With PAD, your legs don’t receive enough blood flow. This can cause problems with wounds on your feet or toes not healing.
A typical sign is experiencing fatigue or heaviness in the limbs or cramping after walking or climbing stairs. Many people with PAD have no symptoms or mistake symptoms for something else, so it’s important to know your personal risk factors. According to the American Heart Association, one in 20 Americans older than 50 has PAD. Those with it are at increased risk of heart attack and stroke. This makes them six times more likely to die within 10 years than those without PAD.
The experts at Advocate BroMenn Center for Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine in Normal, Ill., cite the following risk factors and symptoms for PAD:
- Those who smoke or have a history of smoking have up to four times’ greater risk.
- African-Americans are more than twice as likely to have PAD as their white counterparts.
- One in three diabetics over age 50 is likely to have PAD.
- People with high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol or a history of heart disease or stroke are at greater risk.
- Your risk increases with age since PAD develops gradually.
- While some dismiss it as aging, nearly everyone with PAD is unable to walk as fast or as far as before.
- Leg or foot pain may cause trouble sleeping for those with PAD.
- The skin of the feet may change color and become pale or turn blue.
- Toenails that don’t grow as well as before and decreased hair growth on the toes and legs may be another symptom.
There are several forms of treatment for PAD. For cases that involve chronic wounds, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is one option. It involves breathing 100 percent oxygen in a pressurized chamber. The increased oxygen to the wound aids in healing and growth of new tissue.
“With aggressive treatment and utilizing advanced modalities, we are able to heal those chronic wounds that people have suffered with for months or even years. These are wounds that limit quality of life activities, and we pride ourselves on addressing the causation and getting those long-term wounds healed,” states Dr. Marcia Hauter , medical director of the Advocate BroMenn Center for Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine.
Other forms of treatment include making lifestyle changes, such as modifying your diet or adding exercise, physical therapy, medications or surgery.
If you think you may have PAD or are at high risk for it, consult your doctor or look for a public screening. There’s a simple, painless test that can diagnose it and allow you to seek treatment before symptoms worsen.
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