By: Michael Simpson, MD
Cardiologist at Birmingham Heart Clinic
September is National Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) Awareness Month. One in 20 Americans over the age of 50 has PAD, and though it is a common and treatable disease, it is largely unknown, often unrecognized, and its symptoms are commonly attributed to old age.
Peripheral arterial disease is caused by plaque build-up or blockages in an area of the body outside of the heart such as the legs, neck or arms. The blockages keep extremities and organs from receiving oxygen-rich blood. And just like clogged arteries in the heart, blocked arteries in the legs raise the risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes. Ultimately, PAD can reduce mobility and be fatal if left untreated.
Many people lose limbs each year due to peripheral arterial blockage, but BHC believes that early diagnosis and treatment can prevent disability and save limbs and lives. BHC has extensive experience in interventional procedures to save limbs.
Symptoms of PAD include:
- open ulcer/wound on the bottom of your foot that does not heal
- pain in the feet or legs that goes away with walking
- severe cramping in your calf after exercising that goes away immediately when stopping
- discoloration of the legs/feet
- numbness or coldness in legs/feet
- pale, shiny skin
PAD is caused by the same risk factors that lead to heart disease. Those at risk include anyone over the age of 50, especially African Americans; those who smoke or have smoked; and those who have diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol or a personal or family history of vascular disease, heart attack, or stroke. A simple, painless ultrasound can test the blood flow in your legs to determine your risk of PAD. Consult with your doctor if you think you may be at risk, or call BHC to learn more at (205) 856-2284.