Diagnosing Your Leg Pain – Do You Have Peripheral Arterial Disease?
By James Kim, MD, Interventional Cardiologist & Vascular Specialist at Brevard Heart & Vascular Institute in Viera
Leg pain or cramping that stops you in your tracks, numb legs or feet, cold toes or foot sores that are slow to heal… these could be signs of a serious circulatory problem that is prevalent among seniors. Approximately 5 million Americans suffer from Peripheral Arterial Disease or P.A.D. The risk of developing P.A.D. increases dramatically with age. How do you know if you are at risk or if you already have this debilitating condition?
P.A.D. is a circulatory problem in which cholesterol plaque builds up in arteries responsible for carrying blood to the limbs, organs, or head. Over time, this limits the flow of oxygen-rich blood to affected limbs commonly resulting in leg pain or cramping made worse by walking or other activities as well as leg numbness or weakness, slow healing sores/wounds, cold lower leg/foot, skin color changes and more. Typically, leg pain goes away with rest but returns when reengaging in activity.
“Often people with P.A.D. have leg pain but do not experience other symptoms. They dismiss it as a normal sign of aging or arthritis,” says Dr. James Kim, Interventional Cardiologist and Vascular specialist at Brevard Heart & Vascular Institute in Viera. “If left untreated, the risk of amputation or even stroke increases dramatically.”
Are you at risk? “Non-modifiable” risks include increased age, family history of P.A.D., and African American race. “Modifiable” risks include cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, obesity, and low physical inactivity.
If you experience leg pain or one of the other symptoms above, you should be screened for P.A.D. Even if symptoms are not present, consider being screened if you have one of the risk factors or if you are over the age of 70.
Conservative treatment of P.A.D. lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation, becoming more physically active, losing excess weight, developing healthy eating habits.
“The human body is amazing,” says Dr. Kim, “Simply increasing activity can initiate the formation of new blood vessels throughout the constricted limbs and for some patients this alone keeps their PAD under control.”
Additional treatment includes medication management of blood pressure/ cholesterol or diabetes and/or reestablishment of blood flow with procedures such as bypasses or angioplasties.
Learn more about treatment of this and other conditions at Brevard Heart & Vascular Institute in Melbourne, FL by calling 321-775-1319.